Regents Approve New Name for University Residence Hall and Park

July 15, 2010

AUSTIN, Texas — Acting on the recommendation of University of Texas at Austin President William Powers Jr., The University of Texas System Board of Regents today (Thursday) unanimously approved the new name of a residence hall and park on the university's campus.

Creekside Residence Hall and Creekside Park will replace the current names of Simkins Hall and Simkins Park, respectively. The residence hall, which was built in the 1950s to house male law students and graduate students, was named for William Stewart Simkins, who taught at the university's School of Law from 1899 until his death in 1929.

The adjacent park was named for his brother and former UT System Regent Eldred J. Simkins. Both Simkins brothers had ties to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) after the Civil War.

Powers brought forward the recommendation of a 21-member campus advisory committee charged with making recommendations on the naming issue. The new names are effective immediately, and the campus will install new signage as soon as possible.

Remarks by Regent Printice Gary
Simkins Residence Hall Name Change
UT System Board of Regents Meeting
Austin, Texas
July 15, 2010

From time to time we are reminded of ugly periods in our nation's history regarding civil rights by situations like this. When it happens, the question is what do you do about it. How does the community respond to these types of challenges?

I salute President Powers for taking very quick action to resolve what could have been a very divisive situation in setting up the 21-member advisory committee to consider the facts and to recommend appropriate actions. All of this was headed up very adeptly by Dr. Gregory Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement.

In my opinion, the process was thoughtful and expeditious and included input from all the key stakeholders — students, faculty, administrators, alumni and community representatives. Particularly I salute the students and their participation through the leadership of their student government organization. We also had input from the African American legislators, alumni and various community groups who were strongly in favor of a name change. The participants maintained a professional and rational demeanor throughout, which can be very difficult to do given an emotional issue like this, and they allowed the process to work.

Governor Rick Perry appointed me to the Board of Regents almost three years ago. During that time, I've had the opportunity to interact with students, faculty, administration, alumni and my fellow Regents. Based on those experiences, there was never any doubt in my mind as to what the outcome would be, and I am very pleased with the decision to change the name. The history behind the name is not in line with today's University of Texas at Austin and its core values.

Lastly, The University of Texas at Austin is not unique in this regard. I suspect there are numerous symbols of various types rooted in racial and ethnic hatred that dishonor university campuses and other institutions across America where the negative history of the symbol is not known. The difference is that we acquired specific knowledge of this situation. I believe we acted appropriately and further, on a positive note, took advantage of this opportunity to restate the university's position regarding the importance of diversity and inclusiveness. Going forward I hope that we can now reflect on the progress made to date at the university, which has been significant, and renew our commitment toward furthering diversity and inclusiveness across The University of Texas System.

For more information, contact: Anthony P. de Bruyn, The University of Texas System, 512-499-4363, or Don Hale, The University of Texas at Austin, 512-471-3151.

43 Comments to "Regents Approve New Name for University Residence Hall and Park"

1.  Tom Yarbrough said on July 16, 2010

When are you going to request, demand, scream, mandate or demonstrate to change the name of structures, roads, statues, landmarks, etc. that are named after the late-Senator Robert (KKK) Byrd of West Virginia? You were certainly dead-set to change the UT names of shrines named after William Simkins. Don't you think that you are being a typical liberal hypocrite?

Tom Yarbrough

2.  Becky LaVally said on July 16, 2010

As stated among an earlier set of posts that addressed President Powers' proposal for the name change, the difference here, Mr. Yarbrough, is that Robert Byrd renounced and apologized for his KKK ties and moved during his later public life to distance himself from that past. The Board of Regents through this action is symbolically doing the same for UT's own exclusionary past policies and practices. As Regent Printice Gary says, an ugly civil rights history merits no honor at today's UT, which is striving to become the nation's premier public university. Obviously emotions run deep on the topic. Given this, the UT community and Regents are to be commended for moving this great institution another step away from a racist, segregationist climate that marred its own history. Shameful, mindless cruelties against African Americans were always abhorrent. Time, thankfully, also has rendered them intolerable. Renaming the dorm, I believe, represents true Texas pride.

3.  Judith Sullivan said on July 16, 2010

@ Tom Yarbrough: Shrine? Really, Tom. Do you have a dictionary handy to look up the word "shrine." And Tom, isn't this about UT, not West Virginia?

4.  Ben Kuenemann BSME 1959 said on July 16, 2010

The actions by the Regents to rewrite history is a shameless wimp out to "political correctness." In no way do I condone racism in any form. I lived at UT in "Cliff Courts" from 1955-1959 which was the first integrated living facility on the campus. There was never even a cross word between blacks and non-black students. We played intramural sports together, studied together and played pranks on one another. But you are dealing with a different century and a totally different worldview. The KKK was an abomination. But this man was a member in his youth and as a mature adult dedicated 30 years of his life to teaching at UT. Senator Byrd, was an ardent KKK member 80 years or more after Professor Simkins. They just put him under the grass with as much pomp and circumstance as anyone who ever served in Congress. Where is the justice for this teacher? Ben Kuenemann

5.  Peter Principle said on July 16, 2010

Mr. Yarbrough, when are you going to show any evidence of Simkins forcefully rejecting and renouncing his racist, terrorist seditionist past, as Byrd so publicly did so many years ago? Don't you think you're being a typical conservative when you try to forge absurd equivalencies between completely unrelated people, events and eras?

This is really a very simple issue. It's not a conservative or liberal issue. It goes to the very foundation of our democracy. It's an embarrassment for a major public institution anywhere in our country to honor racists, terrorists and seditionists from an ugly past in this day and age. One would hope that anyone in 21st century America, right, left or middle, would be embarrassed to defend such a thing. As Mr. Yarbrough so clearly demonstrates, sadly, this is not the case.

Kudos to UT for doing the right thing, if a few decades late. It's well nigh time we stop romanticizing the false heroes of the hate and intolerance and move forward together into the future. Or, at least, into the early 21st century.

6.  charles cathey said on July 16, 2010

Following this "logic," the state of West Virginia should rename about half of its state buildings and parks.

7.  Bill Betzen said on July 17, 2010

Becky, I agree with your noble sentiments. But this one hall is simply one of hundreds of buildings and roads all over Texas that are named after former KKK members. The national KKK headquarters moved to Dallas in 1922 and by 1926 it is estimated there were from 6,000,000 to over 8,000,000 KKK members in the U.S. at its high point. A significant percentage of civic leaders were KKK members. Then the criminal investigations of illegal activity, including stealing of KKK funds by officers of the KKK, began. The Dallas Morning News led efforts against the KKK. Membership fell dramatically to only 30,000 by 1930, according to one estimate.

The evidence of KKK membership in our history should not be erased, but documented. We should be very careful in renaming buildings and streets originally named after KKK members. It would be better to include some acknowledgment of that KKK membership and eliminate the secrecy behind which the KKK hid.

If we are not regularly reminded of our true history the dangers of continuing the human beliefs behind that painful history will increase. Still today we have full page newspaper adds of 50+ honored employees in a Dallas company, honored employees who just happen to all be Anglo. That practice appears to make nobody uncomfortable in our society as we try to hide evidence of our racist history.

We must not simply erase the KKK names on our Texas streets and buildings, but acknowledge them. We can thereby consciously work to end that view of humanity still too often reflected here in Texas. I fear that changing the name on a building is not enough.

8.  UTstudent said on July 17, 2010

Thank you to the president, Board of Regents and university community. I now have another reason to be proud when I say "Hook 'em, Horns!" :)

9.  L. Kelley said on July 17, 2010

@Becky LaVally -- The late senator Robert Byrd verbally and publicly distanced himself from the KKK, but that doesn't make him any less of a bigot. As recently as 2001, Byrd was on television using the phrase "white n#*&*#s."

If "an ugly civil rights history merits no honor at today's UT," then why is the main science building on this campus RLM? Robert Lee Moore was a virulent racist and refused to teach Blacks.

And of course there is the Confederate memorial affectionately known as the Six Pack. What could contribute more to a racist and segregationist climate than statues of the leaders of the Confederacy? The cornerstone of the Confederacy was slavery.

It's a shame that these names are still honored and celebrated on this campus. It's hypocrisy to not remove them.

10.  Eric M. Larson said on July 18, 2010

William Stewart Simkins and his brother Eldred James Simkins are listed in the Handbook of Texas, and their removal from that reference book and others is unlikely. Each were formally recognized by The University of Texas at Austin, and are part of its history. As I said in comments about the proposed removal and renaming of the residence hall and creek that has now occurred, I respectfully suggest that the reasons for these renaming be clearly and publicly memoralized; erecting large plaques at the creek and the residence hall briefly recounting the history involved -- then and now -- would be faithful to and simultaneously serve the interests that lessons from history seek to impart. In this case, the lesson is that two people who made important contributions to The University of Texas at Austin were also deeply and actively involved in racist activities, which neither of them renounced, and that as society has developed and matured, such racist activities and attitudes are no longer appropriate and should rightfully be condemned. But to simply erase the names with no explanation does a serious disservice to those who would purport to learn the lessons of history, just as destroying the Auschwitz death camp and replacing it with a meadow would lessen the sharpness of the emotional and historical impact that Auschwitz had, and continues to represent. Large plaques that explain the reasons for the renamings would simultaneously recall the past as well as the importance of supplanting it. Finally -- consider the obvious educational impact for future generations of students who would be usefully instructed in how history is a living thing. Racism, no doubt, continues to exist. The renaming is one useful way that The University of Texas at Austin, and the larger society, is reminded of the perniciousness of racism and the continuing need to speak and act against it.

11.  Ed Berger said on July 19, 2010

Perhaps the plaque could point out that Eldred Simkins was a founder and original Regent of The University of Texas System and William Simkins was one of the very best law professors the university has ever had.

Also, maybe we can now change the name of the Malcolm X Lounge in Jester Center with the same enthusiasm. As in the case of Sen. Byrd, Malcom X has no ties to The University of Texas at Austin. Malcom X's name on any part of the university makes for a less-inclusive and less-welcoming environment, especially to white students and alumni. But I guess the administration is not interested in racial equality when it comes to honoring who they consider bigots.

12.  Cliff L said on July 19, 2010

Nice job, Texans. Nice job. I may decide to let my daughter attend the university as did her mother and father.

Hook 'em.

13.  Mr. Esparsa said on July 19, 2010

It was about time for the name change, President Powers!

14.  oliver watson said on July 22, 2010

From Orwell's 1984: “The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth.” The narrator describes the way the party manipulates history by changing all documents referring to the history. I never expected UT to evolve to Orwell's predicted society.

15.  Vivian Carlatte said on July 22, 2010

The renaming probably needed to be done. However, did anyone contact the Simkins family before it was done, at least, to explain? Also, #10 above does bring up a valid point: Shouldn't we also drop the Malcolm X name, too?

16.  Felipe Calderon said on July 22, 2010

I agree with Mr. Larson. Let the lessons of history be the foundation of our future.

17.  Marcelo Barros said on July 22, 2010

In the quality of an international UT student who is also aware of the history of the US and Texas, I feel that such move is positive but perhaps pointless as some pointed out. The KKK is absolutely abhorrent, shaming the past of Texas but painting it at the same time. What I mean by this is that although one would rather destroy that which one dislikes (or hates), we must always keep in mind that history is there also to be learned upon. Let the change be a public sign of a symbolic rejection of that which was in the past a reality but today became intolerable thanks to the rectitude of reason. The full explanation, perhaps in form of a plaque, should be indeed presented to the public, where the reasons for the renaming are fully expounded. If such a thing is not done, it becomes absolutely pointless that the change was ever done, making us conjecture whether the change was done merely as a cheap political move. This, by the way, is done quite often; in fact, we saw this occuring a few days ago with some Ms. Sherrod (pardon if I got her name incorrectly spelled) being fired due to some inconsistent and imcomplete accusation. The White House then apologized profusely.
Lastly, concerning the position that this logic would mean the renaming of hundreds of buildings and streets. I do believe that they should then be all renamed when appropriate. But please do keep in mind that renaming a building within UT is more symbolic and more urgent, due to the values and nature of such an institution, than renaming some random obscure building. As an University that dialogues with truth and reason and proposes civic change, it becomes imperative that such acts be done. Not only that, but be made publicly known.
Thank you and Hook `Em Horns

18.  J.R.McGregor said on July 22, 2010

The Simkins name incident is just another example of nonsense in the name of diversity which will eventually rewrite and bland out all history of the state if carried on. Why not erase the names of maybe half of the past governors and politicians who have done something not to the liking of the current liberals/leftists who want to rewrite history? I'm becoming ashamed of being a UT graduate.

19.  Paul said on July 22, 2010

Well done, President Powers. In reference to Senator Byrd one should note that his greatest shame - as he stated himself - was filibustering against the Civil Rights Act. Later he became a champion of ensuring the opportunity for living the American dream was possible for all. He's proof that people can change. Professor Simkins was not. And in fact in our history, I maintain that the KKK has been the most pernicious terrorist organization this country has ever faced. Nothing else compares.

20.  Herman L. Cryer said on July 22, 2010

History revision is tricky and sometimes silly. We current occupants of this Earth cannot change one iota of our past activity, let alone the activity of others. Let history stand as it really is, ugly or not; and don't try to revise it by changing the name of a building or a creek.

21.  Mary Jacobson Wade said on July 22, 2010

Malcolm X Lounge? Please tell me you are kidding. There has got to be a point at which we as a collective group of humanity can say NO to ridiculous ideas such as honoring just anyone a minority says we should.

22.  Anitha Mitchell said on July 22, 2010

As an African American graduate of UT from the early 60's who spent three years in segregated housing at the University, I commend the University for this action. It helps to erase some of the painful memories.

23.  Ryan K said on July 22, 2010

Perhaps UT could next take down the statue of George Washington from the Main Mall? Wasn't George Washington himself, not just a supporter of slavery, but an actual slave owner? Thomas Jefferson should not be taught in our history classes either. He is an obvious racist.

I do in no way condone racism, or the racist activities of either Mr. Simkins. What I do know is that they did not have a park and a residence hall named after them because they were associated with the KKK, but for other, very positive contributions to UT and to society as a whole. Why not talk about their very obvious shortcomings, and condemn their racist acts, but not try to whitewash our history. Shame on UT.

24.  Richard L. Garver said on July 22, 2010

The first thing I noticed upon arriving at The University of Texas at Austin campus as a freshman was the inscription, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Apparently it is the first thing President William Powers Jr. and the Board of Regents forgot.

Richard L. Garver
Class of 1963

25.  Nathan Jennings B.S. ChE '64 said on July 22, 2010

Shame on the UT administration! Two of my great-grandfathers owned slaves. I guess that makes me a bad person in UT's eyes. The two slaves of my great-grandfather Winfrey were married after the war, and Oprah later came from this union. The slave of my other great-grandfather followed my ancestor to Texas from Kentucky, and he and his family farmed beside my great-grandfather after 1872.

26.  Rodney Griffin said on July 22, 2010

Firstly, I laud the removal of the both Simkins names. Secondly, the naming of a room after the human rights advocate Malcolm X, and the naming of campus facilities and landmarks after the Simkins brothers are not moral equivalents. Even if it were true Malcolm X was prejudiced against white people, although this writer does not agree, this would not be the equivalent to brothers being members of an organized and massive institution (KKK) that had the power to terrorize and destroy the lives of many African Americans for many decades after slavery. Please do not be had, took, hoodwinked nor bamboozled. Know the difference.

Rodney Griffin
UT Class '70

27.  Bruce Wilson said on July 22, 2010

Creekside Hall Intramural Team just doesn't have the same impact on a T-shirt. Do they still have the cockroach icon on their shirts?

Resident '72-'74

28.  Stephen Blackburn said on July 23, 2010

I salute the university for the name change and the process used sounds healthy. That said, I agree with Eric M. Larson that a plaque explaining the name change would be better than simply "disappearing" part of the university's past. Regarding Malcolm X -- he, like Senator Byrd, renounced his earlier racism. Both men showed they could grow.

Malcolm X's change of heart came after he made a pilgrimage to Mecca. He wrote:

"I realized racism isn’t just a black and white problem. It’s brought bloodbaths to about every nation on earth at one time or another.

"In many parts of the African continent I saw white students helping black people. Something like this kills a lot of argument. I did many things as a [Black] Muslim that I’m sorry for now. I was a zombie then — like all [Black] Muslims — I was hypnotized, pointed in a certain direction and told to march.

"I am not a racist…. In the past I permitted myself to be used…to make sweeping indictments of all white people, the entire white race and these generalizations have caused injuries to some whites who perhaps did not deserve to be hurt. Because of the spiritual enlightenment which I was blessed to receive as a result of my recent pilgrimage to the Holy city of Mecca, I no longer subscribe to sweeping indictments of any one race. I am now striving to live the life of a true…Muslim. I must repeat that I am not a racist nor do I subscribe to the tenants of racism. I can state in all sincerity that I wish nothing but freedom, justice and equality, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all people."

Stephen Blackburn
B.A. '78, M.A. '82, M.F.A. '97

29.  Brian Adkins said on July 23, 2010

I really think that the renaming is pandering to those who would change history to reflect their own prejudices. I am amused at the comments and saddened by those who obviously believe in selective racism and no particular understanding of forgiveness or redemption. Mr. Larson and Mr. Berger both commented very well on the matter.

30.  James W Wilson said on July 23, 2010

I have followed this story for many weeks, but have not spoken out before. I am troubled by the university's action. I attended the law school from 1949 to 1951. We were regaled with Simkins stories from the time we entered. The school "mascot" (or what used to serve in that role) "The Peregrinus" was founded on a tale about Simkins. I understand that "The Peregrinus" still may be seen in the law school library. The three yearbooks that sit on my office shelf are titled "The Peregrinus."

Col. Simkins' 30-year tenure at the law school is, or at least was, an important part of law school lore, and I deplore seeing it stained in the name of political correctness.

31.  John Kirk Gray said on July 24, 2010

Since Simkins Hall is used by the athletes, next to the cafeteria, the regrettable change of name from KKK Simkins Hall should be to D.X. Bible Athletes Study Dormitory. Named after the athletic director of the "roaring twenties" D.X. BIble? The next door cafeteria could be renamed the Darrel Royal Cafeteria, except this comment is not from a UT Regent, only an Ex student with no kind of clout.

John Kirk Gray
Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy of Science
Practice limited to ethics

32.  Dylan Thomas said on July 24, 2010

Ah, the good ol' days of UT -- before liberals were prominent. What a privilege it would have been for me to graduate in 1909 instead of 2009. I grew tiresome of having to tweak my research papers just to facilitate the interests of my liberal professors while at UT. It would have been nice to have Simkins teach at least one of my classes. But still, I don't condone his violent actions against African Americans. Yet again, the ideals of early 20th century America, I feel were much more respectable than the society we have today -- particularly at UT.

That's what we get for having a liberal baby boomer from California representing our prestigious university. I feel that the integrity of my alma mater has been pillaged by liberals. At least Simkins had a backbone and stood up for what he believed. It's as if someone has to sacrifice their backbone to be a prominent leader today (i.e., Texas governor, UT president, UT Board of Regents, etc.).

UT might change, but I'm the young man with an old soul who won't change with it. I suppose I better end it here, or the Board of Regents might take interest in revoking my UT diploma.

33.  Melody said on July 25, 2010

Bravo, UT. I think you did the right thing here. And Eric M. Larson has an excellent suggestion for preserving the historical legacy of these buildings and serving an educational purpose.

34.  Kevin J. said on July 26, 2010

Well, I think that's a great philosophy.

If we erase all evidence of the ugly things that happened in our history, it will be like they never happened at all. Get a few generations removed and no one will even remember them. This is nothing more that overt political correctness and historical whitewashing.

For shame!

35.  A suggestion said on July 26, 2010

There is a building named after Robert Lee Moore who was an ardent racist until the end of his life. Next?

36.  CBH said on July 26, 2010

Congratulations to UT for the name change. This is a great effort and an example of the university constantly moving toward ideologies of racial and cultural inclusiveness.

37.  Fred Morse said on July 27, 2010

I would recommend that people read William Murchison's column on the op ed page of the July 19 Dallas Morning News.

38.  emil holiner said on July 27, 2010

What utter nonsense. Shall we now change the name of Fort Hood, one of the largest military facilities in the nation, to Fort Sherman or Fort Grant? John Bell Hood was a confederate general, and a Texan. Why don't we change the name to Ft. Cesar Chavez, who has absolutely no relevance to Texas? Or Fort Malcolm X, ditto.

The term "African American" is an artificially contrived hoax, as is the term "caucasian," "white" or "black." My father was born in Germany, and emigrated to the U.S. in 1921. My great-grandfather was born in Sweden and emigrated to the U.S. in the late 19th century. I can prove by scientific evidence that I am an "African American."

Anybody with a $100 and the the curiosity to participate in one of the most extensive endeavors into human genealogy can send it to the National Geographic Genome Project. They will receive a kit that will permit them to obtain and return a painless sample of their DNA. It will, I assure you, reveal that your ancestors originated in - guess where - Africa. I am no more "white" than Barack Obama is "black."

The entire enterprise is, I reiterate, an artificial construct perpetuated for purely political purposes.

BTW, their response will reveal a very interesting map detailing your ancestors' journey out of Africa, into central Asia and beyond. It will also include a very interesting CD detailing the purpose and merit of this enterprise.

I am sick of all this "racial" posturing and all the fallacy that accompanies it. Intelligent, educated people should be ashamed to participate in or perpetuate it further.

39.  Recent Grad said on July 28, 2010

As many before have said, this is a pointless gesture brought on by a very few "offended" individuals. What do you propose next, destroy all the statues in the Six Pack and replace them with "modern art"? The men represented did more to found the institution we are going to than any other memorial you could put up. Leave them as a reminder we do have a tarnished past, but we have come a long way from it. Granted not far enough in many cases, but we've moved from it.

As a very recent grad from UT, I have NEVER felt welcome in the Malcolm X lounge. It is very much a black only lounge on campus. Sure you may not be kicked out but if you're white you aren't welcomed in there. By continuing the idea of "your ancestors did it so you need to be extra nice to us" is simply racism in another form and won't lead anywhere close to inclusiveness. Work for REAL inclusiveness by opening doors and taking the time to make educational moments out of these statues, buildings and rooms before you condone knocking them down and writing it off as a step toward inclusiveness.

40.  Grad Student said on July 29, 2010

To Tom Yarbrough: As you state, late Senator Byrd is from West Virginia -- not Texas. A quick Google search confirms that most (if not all?) of the structures named for Byrd reside in/around West Virginia. I doubt the UT Regents have any control over the naming of West Virginia's structures. There is no hypocrisy in the Regents allowing the good people of West Virginia to pursue renaming of their own things.

41.  William Kiker said on July 31, 2010

What about Robert Lee Moore? He was a known racist, yet accomplished many things in teaching mathematics. Should we rename the RLM, too? How consistent should we be?

42.  Robert H. McHaney, Jr. said on Aug. 5, 2010

While going to school In Austin, I never heard any background story on Simkins Hall. For me, this is just another knee-jerk reaction to political correction. Next, you all will start targeting the various statues on campus. Well, here's one - Did you know that U.S. Grant, the great war hero, also was a slave owner. Yep, he married a woman whose family resides in the South, and by default, he became a slave owner. Just wonder which side he would have fought for, if he had been down south with her kinsfolk.

43.  Maruf Khan said on Aug. 7, 2010

Renaming a hall is not erasing history. Why should we keep honoring an unrepentant racist? And yes, if Robert Moore was a known racist, we should rename RLM, too. And Mr. Dylan Thomas (comment 32). Your lamenting for the good ol' days of UT breaks my heart. I am sure you would have loved to be in the class of 1909. Why not. You would have two black slaves pressing your suit and shining your shoes as you get ready for your 9 o'clock law class with Dr. Simkins. You are right. "At least Simkins had a backbone." It takes a lot of guts to be a KKK leader in the early 1900s.