UT Austin Holds Final Public Forum on Jefferson Davis Statue

AUSTIN, Texas—The University of Texas at Austin held its second and final open forum on Wednesday afternoon regarding the future of the Jefferson Davis statue on campus.

As previously reported by Breitbart Texas, the first forum took place on July 7. Testimonies in favor of removing the Davis statue dominated the discussion. The Task Force on Historical Representation of Statuary, a 12-member panel established by UT President Greg Fenves, hosted the forums to receive input on the issue. The task force was created in response to some student body efforts that led to the defacing of Confederate statues on campus earlier this year.

Dr. Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement, opened the forum. He stated that the task force had received over 2,900 online comments and 60 phone calls that played into the main charge that was assigned to the committee: “Analyze the artistic, social, and political intent of the statuary on the Main Mall, with a particular focus on the statue of Jefferson Davis, as well as the historical context that they represent.”

The following 40 minutes comprised of testimony that supported the statues remaining intact and on campus.

Texas resident Greg Manning started off as the first of 45 people signed up to speak by saying, “Vitriol and hatred are currently being scattered across this country at this time against all things Southern.” He continued, stating that he’s witnessing “cultural genocide” on a nationwide level, “an attempt to wipe away a part of our culture and country.”

“All Southerners identify more with Robert E. Lee than the Al Sharptons of the Jihadist North,” said an alumnus from UT.

Another alum shared a similar opinion. “We are constantly being asked to respect the heritage of other cultures,” the alumni said. “You cannot elevate your heritage by trampling on someone else’s.”

Forty-five minutes into the public forum, former UT law student Vincent Harding was the first to show support in removing the Jefferson Davis statue. Third-year UT student Emma Steiner followed in his footsteps and said, “It is frankly ludicrous that the black students of UT Austin, who work every day to bring recognition and academic success to our school, have to walk past a statue of a man who considered them less than human.”

A continued wave of undergraduate and graduate students showed their opposition to the statue, discussing their values of campus “multiculturalism and safety.” One student said her friends oftentimes feel unsafe on campus, closing her testimony with urging UT to do a better job at handling the situation. A graduate student said the statues “inhibited students from their full participation” in class and throughout the university.

Another undergraduate said, “We do not have to stand with Jefferson Davis and he does not have to stand on this campus any longer.”

A faculty member for the English department at the university described the situation as “humiliating and embarrassing” due to the people who weren’t taught throughout their education what the confederacy stood for. Another person in support of removing the statues said the United States of America is now the Divided States of America.

For the following hour and a half, testimonies continued. The majority who voiced opinions against the removal of the Davis statue, a notable difference when compared to the July 7 discussion.

Near the end of the forum, history teacher and fifth-generation Texan Rusty Mayhan said that children today are being overrun with the ideology that if they’re white, they’re bad. He finished his testimony by rhetorically asking the audience, “Are we really going to be better off if we take everything down?”

After the two-hour discussion, Vincent thanked the audience for their participation, saying the task force would take their input from both forums into consideration.

The fate of the Jefferson Davis statue and other Confederate monuments at the university will be determined once the task force turns in a report to Fenves on August 1 and the final round of decision-making begins.

Follow Cassi Pollock on Twitter: @cassi_pollock


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