Baylor University is taking steps to remove the name and likeness of former university President Rufus Burleson from the campus.
In June 2020, Baylor’s Board of Regents acknowledged the school’s historical connections to slavery and the Confederacy and established a Commission on Historic Campus Representations.
The commission was charged with determining how the university’s founders, early leaders, monuments, buildings, and traditions were connected to slavery or “racial injustices” and creating a report outlining how Baylor could better communicate and respect its complete history.
The commission released its report a year ago, including a list of recommended changes to the campus.
The Waco Tribune reports that the Board of Regents voted in mid-May to begin implementing some of those changes.
Most notably, the Burleson Quadrangle will be renamed “The Quadrangle,” and Burleson’s statue will be moved to a different part of campus.
According to the report, Burleson was President of Baylor from 1886 to 1897. In addition to owning slaves, Burleson served as a chaplain in the Confederate Army and was allegedly a proponent of the “Lost Cause” theory. This theory espoused the idea of a “divinely white southern future that honored the memory of antebellum whiteness.”
Board President Mark Rountree stressed that the goal behind these changes is not to erase history but to tell the whole history of the university using an additive approach.
“Some of the facts uncovered 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 reckoning, repentance, reconciliation, and redemption,” Rountree said.
According to the Texas Tribune, most of the recommended changes will be completed as part of a four-step plan over three years. In addition to de-emphasizing what the board calls “problematic figures,” the school also seeks to build new memorials to previously overlooked people from Baylor’s history.
The board will hire a design firm to construct a monument to the “unknown enslaved population” believed to have built the campus and redesign the area around the Robert Emmet Bledsoe Baylor statue (commonly called the R.E.B. Baylor Statue) in the Founder’s mall.
The Texas Tribune reports that students have asked that the Baylor statue be removed as well, given that he was allegedly also a slave owner. The commission’s report did not make that recommendation, and the Board of Regents has not indicated that there are any plans to move the statue.