Baylor to rename campus area and relocate statue of former slave-owning college president

Baylor University’s board of trustees voted on Friday to rename a quadrangle on campus and move a statue of a slave-owning former college president more than a year after a report commissioned by the university recommended the changes.

The vote means that the school’s Burleson Quadrangle will be changed to The Quadrangle. The school will also move a statue of former Baylor chairman Rufus Burleson from this space and place it between two academic buildings on campus.

“Our goal at the start of this process was not to erase Baylor’s history, but rather to tell the full story of the University by taking an additive approach as we bring the past to light,” said Board Chairman Mark Rountree in a statement. “Some of the uncovered facts about the University’s history have indeed been painful, but it is important that we move forward together as the Baylor family through an intentional process of awareness, repentance, reconciliation and redemption. .”

Burleson not only owned slaves and served in the Confederate Army as a chaplain, but he promoted an idea known as the “lost cause” theory that slavery was justified and moral and honored whiteness. pre-war.

The board approved a four-step plan to complete the majority of the recommended changes over the next three years. The university will hire a design firm this summer to create a monument for the unknown slaves who built the original campus and redesign the area around the Robert Emmett Bledsoe Baylor Statue, more commonly known as the REB Baylor Statue. on Founders Mall.

Baylor, the school’s namesake, was an associate justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, a law professor, and a donor to the school who was instrumental in its founding.

The Founders Mall and the Burleson Quadrangle are near each other on the 177-year-old campus in Waco.

In the wake of the 2020 murder of George Floyd, students at Baylor demanded that university leaders address Confederate symbols found on campus and make changes to improve diversity and inclusion.

At Baylor, where black students make up about 6% of the student body, university officials have launched a new scholarship program aimed at helping recruit a more diverse student body. School leaders have also created a new diversity training video, which students and the editorial board of the student newspaper Baylor Lariat have widely criticized as “missing the mark”.

The students also asked the university to remove the statue of REB Baylor since he was also a slave owner, but the commission’s report did not recommend this change.

Other plans to redesign common gathering areas include adding signs acknowledging groups and individuals of historical significance to the university.

The university also plans to move two bells from the Burleson Quadrangle to Baylor’s original campus in Independence, an unincorporated town about 112 miles south of Waco. According to the commissioned report, the two bells have a connection with the slave plantations. One of the bells was used by founding trustee Aaron Shannon at his plantation “to join hands in their daily chores”.

“These ‘hands’ were likely slaves, as Shannon owned slaves,” the report said.

Baylor President Linda Livingstone said two new statues of Baylor’s first black graduates, the Reverend Robert Gilbert and Barbara Walker, are expected to be completed and installed by spring 2023.

Livingstone said the university does not have a current estimate of the cost of all of these changes. She is expected to oversee the entire process; the board also voted on Friday to extend his contract until 2032.

The university’s governing body had already taken steps to implement some of the commission’s recommendations, including a request for withdrawal from university mace, which was made upon graduation then that students were treated at the beginning of the beginning.

It is composed of a sword, two canes and the seal of the university set in the wood. The report found several items in the mace had links to slavery, including one of the walking sticks, which belonged to Sam Houston, who owned 12 slaves. Burleson had the other rod.

The board decided to retire the mace, which now lives in the Mayborn Museum on campus.

Now students enter the beginning of Baylor behind a volume of the Saint John Bible.

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