We have entered the fall semester at a time like no other in recent history. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we are teaching and learning at UT Austin. It has made clearer the divisions in our economic, health care and social systems. These, too, are impacting the university. In this issue of Access, we are looking at how we are addressing these issues on campus.
The coronavirus struck the university at a difficult moment for any institution—both the president and provost were preparing to transition to other universities. Simultaneously, a nationwide racial and social justice movement began after the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Our students have taken all of this to heart. They have called for the institution to change, and Interim President Jay Hartzell has risen to their challenge. In July he announced numerous changes to take place on campus—changes that the DDCE has played a role in and will continue to be a part of.
We are pleased that Heman Sweatt and other Precursors will be memorialized at two different campus locations. Robert Lee Moore Hall is now the Physics, Math and Astronomy Building. Joe Jamail Field is being renamed in honor of Heisman Trophy legends Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams. Julius Whittier, the the university’s first Black football player, will be honored with a statue as well. These, however, are symbolic changes, and I have no doubt that symbols are important.
More important to the university’s life, however, are renewed efforts to recruit students from Black and Brown communities across the state, to implement a faculty diversity plan, and to refocus our University Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan. These actions will enrich university life and scholarship as well as address our core values in ways we have not done so before.
We hope you will join us in applauding the university’s efforts to ensure the safety of our students, faculty and staff AND deepen our commitment to access, inclusion and excellence across campus. We are proud to be part of the Longhorn family and look forward to the DDCE’s role in supporting these efforts.
Leonard N. Moore