The UA System Board of Trustees voted with no audible opposition Wednesday to rename Brough Commons, as well as to add contextualizing information to the statue of former Sen. J. William Fulbright that sits behind Old Main.
Board members voted on two resolutions put forth by System President Don Bobbitt regarding the controversial renaming issues that have stemmed from the university’s recent racial reckoning. Bobbitt made recommendations similar to those made by former Chancellor Joe Steinmetz after receiving input from the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Council in late May.
Like Steinmetz, Bobbitt recommended renaming Brough Commons dining hall to remove all association with Charles Brough. The former governor of Arkansas was heavily involved in stoking the Elaine Race Massacre, in which at least 200 Black Arkansans were killed.
However, contrary to Steimetz’s recommendation to move the statue of Fulbright to a less prominent place on campus, Bobbitt recommended that university officials simply add context to the statue in its current location. The resolution text calls for messaging that “affirms the University’s commitment to racial equality and acknowledges Senator Fulbright’s complex legacy, including his record on international affairs, Civil Rights legislation, and racial integration.”
As a U.S. senator, Fulbright signed the Southern Manifesto in opposition to racial integration in 1956, voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and the Voting Rights act of 1965 and filibustered the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“Since Act 1003 of 2021 prevents removing or relocating monuments on public property absent receipt of a waiver from the Arkansas History Commission, I believe the statue should be contextualized in its current location,” Bobbitt wrote in a letter to the board dated Monday. “If a path presents itself at a later time to consider the relocation of the statue that is consistent with state law, the Board can revisit this issue.”
The board members voice-voted on the two resolutions after Bobbitt spoke about Fulbright’s complicated legacy and answered member questions for 15 minutes Wednesday morning.