Dorm named for Klansman may be changed

June 8, 2010 at 11:59 AM
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AUSTIN, Texas, June 8 (UPI) -- The University of Texas said an advisory committee will decide whether to rename a campus building that was named in 1955 for a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

The building, Simkins Residence Hall at the UT campus in Austin, was named for William Stewart Simkins, a law professor at UT for 30 years until he died in 1929. Simkins was a leader of the Florida Klan after the Civil War, the Austin American-Statesman reported Tuesday.

The 19-member advisory group will include students, faculty, staff, alumni, and civic leaders, and will be chaired by Gregory Vincent, UT's vice president for diversity and community engagement.

"As reprehensible as Simkins' KKK activities were, the building was legitimately named in the 1950s," Vincent said. "As a result, we are required to make a careful examination to confirm the legitimacy of our actions, regardless of whether the name remains or is removed."

The online Social Science Research Network's Tom Russell said university records show the special committee's recommendation to the Faculty Council in the 1950s did not indicate Simkins' Klan ties.

Vincent's office said the committee would proceed in a "deliberate" and "careful" manner, as renaming the dormitory would set a precedent, the newspaper said.

"To date, no building at the university has been renamed or had a name removed," Vincent said.

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