regents OK changing dorm’s name
Dorm named for Klan leader will now be called Creekside
University of Texas employees remove the sign at Simkins Residence Hall on Thursday after the UT System Board of Regents agreed to rename the dorm, originally named for a former professor and Ku Klux Klan organizer.
The University of Texas System Board of Regents unanimously gave the green light to change the name of Simkins Residence Hall on Thursday.
UT President William Powers Jr. requested last week that the regents vote to rename the dormitory, named for a UT law professor who also was a Florida Ku Klux Klan leader, to Creekside Residence Hall and the adjacent area to Creekside Park.
“The history behind the name is not in line with today’s UT and its core values,” said Regent Printice Gary, who made the motion for the vote at the regents’ meeting. “On a positive note, we took advantage of this opportunity to restate the university’s position regarding the importance of diversity and inclusiveness.”
The regents’ vote and Powers’ request came after weeks of deliberation by a 21-member advisory group that was charged with making a recommendation on the matter.
“It is a powerful symbol of UT’s progress,” said Gregory Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement, who led the committee.
Workers on Thursday were already removing the sign for Simkins Residence Hall, which sits near Waller Creek. UT officials Thursday could not immediately say how much it will cost to replace signs, update maps and make other changes associated with the renaming.
The all-male dormitory was built in the 1950s to house law and graduate students. It is one of the older dormitories on campus and requires “major renovation,” according to UT’s 2005 Residence Hall Master Plan.
Because the future of the dorm is uncertain — it is possible it eventually will be demolished — Vincent said the university wanted to keep the name neutral.
He also defended the lengthy process of discussion that preceded the official decision. In addition to the four closed meetings held by the advisory committee, UT hosted two public forums in June to solicit input.
“We thought that this was an important educational moment for our campus,” Vincent said.
William Stewart Simkins taught at the School of Law from 1899 until his death in 1929. Before his tenure as a professor, he served as a Confederate colonel in the Civil War and organized the Ku Klux Klan with his brother in Florida. He admitted to assaulting a black man and participating in a train robbery.
The name of the dorm caused a furor after details of Simkins’ personal life history were revealed in an academic journal in May by Tom Russell, a former UT law professor who now teaches at the University of Denver.
UT is not the first to deal with the issues of race and history. Brown University in Rhode Island released a report in 2006 concluding that some of the school’s early benefactors were involved in the slave trade, and it decided to erect a memorial in response.
At UT, statues of Confederate leaders, including Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States, and Robert E. Lee, the chief general, still stand on the South Mall.
“I do hope this does set the tone for other universities to look at their histories,” Vincent said. “We have set a standard for how to handle these types of situations.”
William Powers Jr. UT president requested that the regents vote to rename the dormitory.
UT employees remove the Simkins dorm sign Thursday after the Board of Regents voted to rename the dormitory Creekside.