UT Watch responds to defacing of MLK statue

Racist incidents like the defacement of the MLK statue underscore the seemingly entrenched racial problems that plague the University. The incident itself is demoralizing, offensive, and hurtful. The UTPD should make every effort to apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice. It is terribly important that the University community - whether black, latino, arab, asian, white or other - have the opportunity to see and confront these men and their despicable worldview and actions. We need questions answered now: Are students defacing the statue? Do they belong to a fraternity or to a white supremacy group? Was this a planned action or something done on a whim? These questions an only be answered by finding the men who committed the crime.

But while catching the perpetrators is important, it does little to answer the underlying problems with the University. Minority students and their allies have worked for years to try and build a more tolerant, diverse, and accessible school, but their efforts have hardly been supported by government and the university administration. Only when a series of racially-tinged events occurred last year did President Faulkner agree to make institutional changes demanded by the community. However, Faulkner responded in the way only way he seems capable of doing where student issues are concerned - he formed a committee to study the problem. There's nothing wrong with having a body of faculty, students, and administrators look into an issue and provide recommendations as long as the President makes good faith efforts to implement the recommendations. As the Texan reported: "In May [2004], Faulkner responded to the [Task Force on Racial Respect and Fairness] recommendations with a series of proposals, including instituting an undergraduate culture course requirement, delaying freshmen from rushing Greek organizations until January, and creating a new administrative position for diversity. None of the proposals have yet been implemented."

While these proposals don't go far enough, and in the case of the culture course requirement have significant opposition and probably little practical value, Faulkner needs to move to put at least some of these changes into action...Now. Before another wave of bitterness and disenfranchisement sets in among the student body. After these recommendations are in place, the University and the Legislature need to address and act on the more structural reasons that the University has failed poor and minority Texans. The fundamental problem with the University - and higher education in general - is that the education system acts as a reproducer of inequalities, especially harming working-class blacks and latinos in the United States. Accessibility and affordability need to be the twin concerns of any serious attempt at eliminating racism and inequality on campus. With a student body that truly represents Texas' economic and racial makeup, minority students will no longer feel like (and be) an embattled and disenfranchised group. To force this seachange, students, faculty, staff and the public must stand up and let their demands be heard.