After the killing of George Floyd, hundreds and thousands of protesters took to the streets to march in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and demand sweeping reform.
During this time, many members of the Longhorn community—groups and committees of students, faculty, staff and alumni—called for widespread administrative action to make the Forty Acres a more equitable, diverse and inclusive space for all.
In response to this call for change, President Jay Hartzell announced a series of actions that build upon the university’s continuing efforts, which include the creation of the University Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, the removal of multiple Confederate Statues on the Main Mall and the expansion of the $160 million Texas Advance Commitment.
Here is a look back at campus changes since the summer of 2020. Although much work remains, we face this ongoing effort with optimism and determination.
George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, igniting protests across the globe against systemic racism and police brutality.
The Black Student Alliance and UT Student Government released a joint statement with several organizations on May 29 demanding justice for George Floyd, changes in law enforcement and support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
“The Black Student Alliance grieves the death of George Floyd, a Texas native, and deeply resonates with the nationwide sentiments of both disgust, frustration and revolution.”—the statement reads.
A coalition of students release a list of demands titled “Student Community Statement: 8 Demands for Transformative Change,” which called for a number of actions to make the campus more supportive of Black and Indigenous students of color.
“UT must now act on this public commitment by taking an active role and listening to students. Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) student leaders should be at the forefront of these conversations.”—the statement reads.
On June 12, current Texas Longhorns student-athletes issued a statement with a list of requests including the renaming of campus buildings and donations to Black Lives Matter.
“We, as student-athletes, and collectively as the University of Texas Longhorn football team, are aware that we are an athletic department made up of many black athletes, and believe that it is time we become active on our campus,” the statement reads.
To answer the outpouring of requests from colleagues on how to better support the university’s Black community, Leonard Moore, then vice president for diversity and community engagement and George Littlefield Professor of American History, offered his History of the Black Experience course online at no cost throughout the months of July and August. More than 1,700 faculty and staff participated in the course.
UT Athletics announces the renaming of Joe Jamail Field at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium to honor both Texas Longhorns greats Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams.
“For countless days as young football players and upon being included to the Hall of Fame, Ricky and I have stood on this iconic field for many important points in our lives. We never would have envisioned this historic site would one day bear our names. The symbolism of this honor transcends the recognition of the Heisman Trophies we received…” –Earl Campbell
In July 2020, UT Austin President Jay Hartzell announces a series of actions to promote diversity, inclusion and equity and to more fully support Black students on campus.
“During the past month, I have listened to scores of students. I went into these conversations understanding that UT has worked hard to become a more diverse and welcoming place. I came out of them realizing there is still more work to do — and this starts and ends by creating an environment in which students are fully supported before, during and after their time at UT.”—Jay Hartzell, UT Austin President
On July 13, the Robert L. Moore Building, named for a former math professor who was a segregationist and refused to teach Black students, was renamed the Physics, Math and Astronomy Building. Historical explanations will be placed in the building on why past university leaders chose Moore as its namesake.
Under the leadership of Vice Provost for Diversity Ted Gordon, the Provost Office launched a new Early Career Fellowship Program, bringing in 26 postdoctoral researchers who are all working to bridge systemic inequities in areas such as public health, education, housing and more. The new program was created in an effort to recruit, develop and retain world-class faculty members who bring more diversity to the university’s research and teaching missions.
The University of Texas at Austin was recognized nationally for our ongoing efforts to support Latino students — a reflection of the great work of so many dedicated members of our community. Excelencia in Education, which promotes Latino student success in higher education, announced that we are among just five colleges and universities to earn its Seal of Excelencia for 2020.
“This comes at a time when our graduation rates among all groups of students, including Latino students, have risen to record levels — and when our Latino undergraduate enrollment has exceeded 25 percent for the first time ever. This qualifies UT Austin for consideration as a Hispanic-Serving Institution.”—President Hartzell
As part of the series of actions announced by President Jay Hartzell in July 2020, the university allocated a multimillion-dollar investment from UT Athletics’ revenue to worthy university programs, including student outreach and recruitment efforts that impact students from underrepresented communities in Dallas, Houston and the Rio Grande Valley. The Youth Engagement Center (pictured here) is one of several programs to receive $1 million in university funding.
On November 6, President Jay Hartzell announced the formation of the “The Eyes of Texas” committee to research, study and document the facts of the nearly 120-year-old school spirit song “The Eyes of Texas.”
A statue honoring Julius Whittier, UT’s first Black football letterman, was unveiled in the north end of Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on November 27.
“We celebrate Julius Wittier today for his pioneering role as Texas Football’s first Black letterman, his academic pedigree and his professional achievements.”—President Hartzell stated in a tweet.
The UT Police Department (UTPD) launches a University Crisis Intervention Team, a special unit comprised of several officers who specialize in de-escalating mental health incidents.
“I think anyone on a college campus — law enforcement especially — should have training with mental health because we interact with it so much.”—David Chambers, UTPD Detective
Several university leaders including President Jay Hartzell and Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement Dr. LaToya Smith participated in the ‘State of Black UT,‘ a three-day event hosted by the Black Studies Collective that explored the work UT has done, is doing and needs to do to create an inclusive campus.
The Eyes of Texas History Committee presents its report to Longhorn Nation for deeper understanding and extensive dialogue on March 9.
“Together, we have the power to define what the Eyes of Texas expect of us, what they demand of us, and what standard they hold us to now. The Eyes of Texas should not only unite us, but hold all of us accountable to our institution’s core values. But we first must own the history. Only then can we reimagine its future.”—President Hartzell
In partnership with Texas Athletics, the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (DDCE) launched the LEAD Initiative to engage student-athletes in philanthropic work with nonprofits across the state that serve underrepresented populations. This new initiative was made possible by the university’s multimillion-dollar investment from UT Athletics’ revenue to worthy university programs.
With new university funding allocated from UT Athletics’ revenue, the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies (AADS) will receive $250,000 ($1.25 million total) over the next five years to support graduate and postdoctoral students.
On July 15, Landmarks, the university’s public art collection and program, unveiled Sentinel IV at the renovated site of the former Anna Hiss Gymnasium. The sculpture is the first work of public art by a Black woman artist to be acquired by Landmarks, and it is also the first on our university campus.
“Simone Leigh’s sculpture is an offering that can begin conversations. I hope it promotes a space where various histories can be told, and different voices can be heard.”—Andrée Bober, Landmarks founding director and curator
At the start of the fall semester, the university launched the Mental Health Assistance and Response Team (MHART) pilot program—adding mental health professionals to a team of specially-trained UTPD Mental Health Officers. Together, they will respond to mental health-related calls with the goal of safely and effectively de-escalating incidents and providing the best care to those in crisis.
The university’s Center for Community Engagement opens the new John S. and Drucie R. Chase Building to the public—offering a host of university resources (grant writing, community advocacy and more) to the Austin community. Located in the historic Robertson Hill neighborhood in East Austin, the building was designed by Texas’ first licensed Black architect—and UT’s first Black School of Architecture graduate—John. S. Chase. University and community leaders will celebrate the grand opening at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 23.
For questions about diversity, equity, and inclusion progress on campus, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.