FAYETTEVILLE — A 21-person committee formed by the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville to consider possible campus changes in response to criticism of former U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright will begin meeting this month.
The group that includes seven UA faculty members and six UA students will also consider recommending a change to a student dining facility named in honor of a former Arkansas governor, Charles Hillman Brough, who led the state from 1917 to 1921.
Black student leaders critical of Fulbright’s record on civil rights earlier this summer called for the removal of a 7-foot-tall bronze statue that sits on a granite base near the university’s Old Main academic building. The statue was dedicated in 2002.
Students promoted an online petition begun about a year ago that also calls for stripping Fulbright’s name from UA’s arts and sciences college, which was renamed in his honor in 1981.
Fulbright represented Arkansas in the U.S. Senate for 30 years. He is perhaps best known today for introducing legislation in 1945 that created the international educational exchange program named after him.
The committee will make a recommendation to Chancellor Joe Steinmetz, but Todd Shields, dean of UA’s Fulbright College, has said changes to campus require approval from the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees.
“The committee will consult with noted Fulbright biographers, distinguished historians, and scholars who study race, art in public places and other related topics,” Shields said in a statement.
Other committee actions will include meeting with UA student, faculty and staff leadership organizations, the university’s alumni board and “leaders from other campuses who are having similar discussions,” Shields said.
The recent criticism of Fulbright comes from actions in the 1950s and 1960s that included voting against civil rights legislation.
Fulbright signed what was known as the Southern Manifesto, an effort by southern congressmen and senators to obstruct school integration that had been ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court had ruled in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka against racial segregation in public schools.
Fulbright — who at age 34 was president of the University of Arkansas — in the 1960s also participated in a filibuster against civil rights legislation. He died in 1995.
Brough taught for a time at UA before becoming governor, according to the Central Arkansas Library System’s Encyclopedia of Arkansas, which also notes that some historians rate him “as among the state’s best governors.”
Brough also had a role, however, in what’s known as the Elaine Massacre of 1919, when many black sharecroppers were killed after organizing a union, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Brough, as governor, relied on white informants and appointed a commission that was not asked to investigate the deaths but was instead tasked with “trying to prevent future such occurrences,” according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.
The UA-Fayetteville Education Association/Local 965 union in June passed a resolution calling for the Brough dining area to be renamed in honor of Wiley A. Branton Sr., one of the first Black students to integrate the UA School of Law. Branton throughout his career was known as a civil rights leader.
Shields and a historian, Calvin White, UA’s associate dean of humanities in Fulbright College, will serve as “non-voting facilitators” during committee sessions, which are to be held virtually during the upcoming fall semester.
Along with current UA students, faculty and staff, the committee includes six community members: attorney Woody Bassett; pathologist Tony Hui; author and publisher Janis Kearney; assistant hospital administrator Daniel McFarland; Walmart data analytics leader Will Montgomery; and author and entrepreneur Shambrekia Wise.
Students taking part are: Braziel Hatch, Tyrah Jackson, Tamara Kuykendall, Julia Nall, Johnathan Valley and Daniel Webster.
Faculty members participating are: Caree Banton, Stephen Caldwell, Gerald Jordan, Violeta Lorenzo, Michael Pierce, Luis Restrepo and Jeannie Whayne.
Staff members taking part are: Adrian Smith and Trish Watkins.