Baylor University to Change Some Statues and Building Names Honoring Slaveowners, Will Erect Statues of School’s First Two Black Graduates

A report released Tuesday examining Baylor University’s connections to slavery and racism is recommending the university relocate some statues and change building names honoring former slaveowners.

But the commission — tasked with examining these issues in the wake of the racial reckoning that swept the country after the death of George Floyd — gave a pass to the school’s founder Judge R.E.B. Baylor who also owned slaves. Some students this summer had raised issues with the statue of the founder because of his history as a slaveowner and recently they pushed for it to be removed from campus.

“Judge Baylor was not a perfect man,” Mark Rountree, chair of the Baylor Board of Regents, wrote in a letter to the university community Tuesday. “With our university, Judge Baylor established the foundation for hundreds of thousands of students — which now include all races and creeds — to receive a unique educational experience that combines academic excellence and a Christian commitment. We will continue to recognize Judge Baylor for the founding of Baylor University, just as we commit to presenting a more complete history of the university.”

The report’s authors said, however, they were concerned by the phrase on Baylor’s statue, that “he exemplified in his life the motto of Baylor University Pro Ecclesia/Pro Texana” would imply acceptance of his past as a slaveholder. The committee suggested that statement be removed or further explained.

Sam Onilenla, a junior at Baylor who has pushed for racial equality measures on campus, said he was disappointed to see that there was no recommendation to remove the Baylor statue, but was overall impressed with the report.

“At the end of the day, they’re all recommendations,” he said in an interview. “It’s about implementing those recommendations that we’re going to have to see.”

Lexy Bogney, another student leader who served on the commission, said the student demands to remove the Baylor statue grew louder in recent months, after the commission had already compiled its report. While she said this report is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be the final group to discuss these issues on campus.

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SOURCE: Texas Tribune, Kate McGee