My answer to this question—along with many others—is "yes."
By Benjamin Wermund | June 22, 2015 | Updated: June 22, 2015 5:18pm
Photo By Eric Gay/STF University of Texas administrators are considering a request to remove a statue of Jefferson Davis that symbolizes the Confederacy since many find it offensive.
A petition calling for the statue's removal drew more than 1,500 signatures in 24 hours. Student leaders, who started the petition, said they were optimistic after meeting on Monday with UT President Gregory Fenves, who took office earlier this month.
"Statues serve to glorify and memorialize the values of what the subject stood for," the petition, started by members of UT's student government, says. "Given Jefferson Davis' vehement support for the institution of slavery and white supremacy, we believe this statue is not in line with the university's core values — learning, discovery, freedom, leadership, individual opportunity, and responsibility."
The tension that has arisen around the statue echoes a broader national struggle over public institutions displaying Confederate relics. In South Carolina, politicians, including the state's governor, have called for removal of the Confederate flag, which remains at full staff over the state house, days after a white gunman killed nine people in a historically black church in Charleston.
As UT has worked to diversify in recent years, some on campus see relics like the Davis statue and an inscribed ode to the men and women of the Confederacy as unwelcome reminders of the school's past. The ode is carved into a wall near UT's Littlefield Fountain, one of the university's most prominent landmarks -- named after George Littlefield, a major UT donor and a former Confederate major.
"To a first-generation Latina, these symbols were nothing less than intimidating," Amanda Esparza, a UT student, wrote on the petition. "Remove the statue. Place it in a museum where our society can learn from it and the man it depicts. Do not leave it on a college campus aiming to be as diverse and cultural as possible. Do not leave this statue on the grounds of my home."
Among those to sign the petition was U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, a San Antonio Democrat.
"As a world class university, UT should part with the divisive message represented by the Confederate statutes featured prominently on campus," Castro wrote. "It's time to move them to a museum and consider replacing them with a general Civil War memorial plaque to all Americans who died."
Some state lawmakers -- including Sen. Rodney Ellis, a Houston Democrat, and Rep. Joe Deshotel, a Beaumont Democrat -- also signed the petition.
The petition follows a vote by the student government urging the administration to remove the statue, which was vandalized earlier this year.
Fenves "takes this issue very seriously and has been reviewing it since he took office earlier this month," Gary Susswein, a university spokesman, said in an email.
On his first day in office earlier this month, Fenves said he doesn't believe the statue must be removed simply because it is divisive.
"There are many things that divide people, but the role of the university is to educate people on our history," Fenves said.
UT student body president Xavier Rotnofsky was optimistic after Monday's meeting with Fenves.
"President Fenves is really attuned to our concerns and I'm confident something good is going to come of it," Rotnofsky said.
UT has wrestled with such issues in the past. In 2010, Fenves's predecessor Bill Powers pushed to rename Simkins Hall, a dormitory which opened in 1955 and was named for William Stewart Simkins, a law professor from 1899 to 1929 and a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Simkins is now known as Creekside.