The panel formed in response to student demands issued after last summer’s #BlackatUARK movement.
A committee is calling on the University of Arkansas to remove a statue of J. William Fulbright from its Fayetteville campus and to strip his name from the College of Arts and Sciences. The panel also recommends the removal of Charles Brough’s name from Brough Commons.
“The committee recognizes that these recommendations alone will not transform the University of Arkansas into a wholly equitable and antiracist campus. Nonetheless, public memorials, statues and dedications need to be changed if they reinforce historic racism,” panel members said in a statement.
In September 2020, the council formed with the goal of analyzing the presence of Sen. Fulbright and Gov. Brough on campus. The examination was prompted by student demands following the #BlackatUARK movement, a student-led initiative highlighting racism at the university. Students have continued participating in anti-racism efforts including a protest in March.
The committee — which consisted of 19 voting members representing students, faculty, staff and alumni — listened to presentations from various student groups during weekly meetings prior to releasing its three recommendations yesterday.
A recommendation to remove the former U.S. Senator’s name and statue from campus was prompted by students who said they find the statue and use of Fulbright’s name unwelcoming because of his record on civil rights. Students cited his decision to sign the Southern Manifesto and unwillingness to challenge Orval Faubus during the Little Rock Central High School Crisis.
“For them, the Fulbright statue and the college name glorify a man who did not see Black Arkansans as full citizens and signify that the university has not fully left behind its Jim Crow past,” the committee said.
Chancellor Joe Steinmetz expressed his appreciation for the council’s work in a written statement, and said the university will gather feedback on the recommendations and consider additional input from a wide range of stakeholders.
“This matter is complicated by Sen. Fulbright’s deep connections to the state and university, and important international contributions, at the same time acknowledging that the name causes pain for some on our campus, which is unfortunate,” Steinmetz said.
Brough served as the state’s governor and also did not support Black Arkansans. Following the Elaine Massacre of 1919, the deadliest act of racial violence in the state, “Brough praised the restraint of the white community, blamed Black people for the violence, and empowered those who oversaw the unjust judicial process that sent scores of Black men to prison and condemned 12 men to death,” committee members said.
Because of these actions, the panel said there is “no conceivable way to recontextualize his legacy in a way that is positive for our campus,” and recommended his name be removed from Brough Commons.
The process of seeking feedback on the committee’s recommendations is expected to conclude in late May. Steinmetz said taking action on the recommendations will be “carefully evaluated” and actions such as a name change would require approval by the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees. The full text of the committee’s recommendations is available here.