The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) will launch several initiatives to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion on its campus in response to calls for change made by student athletes.
Interim President Jay Hartzell shared a letter on Monday outlining the university’s plans, which include renaming buildings, adding monuments of notable Black alumni, and increasing the number of underrepresented students, faculty, and staff.
The letter was shared in response to several student athletes stating their refusal to assist in recruiting incoming players or attending donor-related events unless the university met its list of demands for supporting Black students.
The list called for university officials to rename buildings and remove monuments of Texans who perpetuated racism. The athletes also asked for the school fight song “The Eyes of Texas” to be discontinued at all events, due to its history of being used in minstrel shows.
In his letter, Hartzell said the song would continue in its current form, but the UT Austin community would work to “reclaim and redefine” its meaning and relation to the institution’s core values. Hartzell also stated that instead of renaming some buildings and monuments, the university would “educate our community and visitors about the history and context of many of the names that remain.”
UT Austin will also allocate a multimillion-dollar investment toward the athletics department in order to “recruit, attract, retain, and support Black students.” According to the letter, Black students make up only 5.1 percent of UT Austin’s student body.
In addition, Hartzell announced the expansion of the UT Austin Police Oversight Committee to include more diverse community members and students, and to explore new approaches to community policing and on campus safety and wellness issues.