Recommendations from the Committee

Recommendations from the Committee to Evaluate J. William Fulbright’s Presence at the University of Arkansas

The Committee to Evaluate J. William Fulbright’s Presence at the University of Arkansas began in September of 2020 in response to student demands following the #BlackatUARK movement. The committee had a diverse membership reflective of the many voices at the University of Arkansas. It consisted of 19 voting members representative of University of Arkansas students, faculty, staff and alumni. The committee was charged with examining the presence of Senator J. William Fulbright and Governor Charles Brough as currently represented on campus through naming and statuary. We were asked to provide a recommendation on three possible actions: should J. William Fulbright’s statue be moved from its location outside Old Main, should J. William Fulbright’s name be removed from the title of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas, and should Charles Brough’s name be removed from Brough Commons?

Through weekly meetings during the academic year, the committee heard presentations from various student groups on campus including those involved with the #BlackatUARK movement, experts including historians and legal scholars, university stakeholders including alumni, area studies programs, and representatives from the Faculty Senate and Staff Senate. Meetings were conducted in a safe and open environment enabling transparent and meaningful discussions. After many hours of deliberation, the Committee to Evaluate J. William Fulbright’s Presence at the University of Arkansas makes the following recommendations to the University of Arkansas:

J. William Fulbright’s name should be removed from the College of Arts and Sciences.

One of the core principles that the University of Arkansas should never compromise is that it needs to be an equally welcoming place for all students from across the state and beyond, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality and gender. Other core principles include academic freedom and a commitment to serving the people of Arkansas through teaching, research and outreach. The committee considers that it is not its charge to pass final judgment on the legacy of the Senator. The placement and use of the Senator’s name and statue to celebrate Fulbright’s international achievements is not conducive to fully and unambiguously representing the contradictory record of Senator Fulbright and thus acts as an endorsement of his full record including opposition to matters of civil rights.

Students of all races, but especially Black students, have told the committee that they find the J. William Fulbright statue and the name of the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences to be unwelcoming, and they have articulated rational reasons for their sense of alienation. They emphasize Senator Fulbright’s record on civil rights, including his decision to sign the Southern Manifesto, unwillingness to challenge Orval Faubus during the Little Rock Central High School Crisis, opposition to the Civil Rights Bills of 1957 and 1964, and vote against the Voting Rights Bill of 1965. For them, the Fulbright statue and the college name glorify a man who did not see Black Arkansans as full citizens and signify that the university has not fully left behind its Jim Crow past. The committee voted 11 – 5, with 3 absent, to remove the name of Fulbright from the College.

J. William Fulbright’s statue should be removed from its location outside Old Main.

Given Fulbright’s extensive documented record on civil rights addressed above, the committee recommends removing the statue of J. William Fulbright from its current location outside of Old Main. There was a time when Black students were not welcome on our campus. J. William Fulbright, while Senator, voted against the interests of Black students, and supported values antithetical to the university. For many, the statue is a memorial to those segregationist values and a daily reminder to our Black students of that time. Old Main is our most iconic and cherished building on campus. Students from all walks of life, from all over the world, should feel inspired to walk through its doors and learn within its walls. We can only achieve that goal if the statue of Fulbright is moved.  The statue could possibly be moved to the University of Arkansas museum or other off-campus location and be properly contextualized there, honestly describing Fulbright’s connection to the university, and his legacy thereafter. The committee voted 15 – 1, with 3 absent, to remove the statue from its location outside Old Main.

Charles Brough’s name should be removed from Brough Commons.

The 1919 Elaine Massacre was the deadliest act of racial violence in Arkansas.  Racism and anti-union sentiment catalyzed the event, and actions in the aftermath of the massacre further victimized the African Americans of Phillips County. Brough praised the restraint of the white community, blamed Black people for the violence, and empowered those who oversaw the unjust judicial process that sent scores of Black men to prison and condemned twelve men to death. Moreover, Brough ignored pleas from across the country to commute or pardon those unjustly convicted. Brough’s role in the 1919 Elaine Massacre is unforgiveable, and there is no conceivable way to recontextualize his legacy in a way that is positive for our campus. The committee voted 16-0, with 3 absent.

The recommendations are consistent with a Guiding Priority of the University of Arkansas. That is “diversity should permeate the very fabric of the University of Arkansas to create an inclusive environment. We will therefore work to diversify along many dimensions our faculty, staff and students and at the same time continue to foster a culture that is welcoming to all.”

The committee recognizes that these recommendations alone will not transform the University of Arkansas into a wholly equitable and antiracist campus. Nonetheless, public memorials, statues and dedications need to be changed if they reinforce historic racism. We recommend the establishment of a rigorous and open process involving Campus Council for the vetting of naming opportunities for buildings and public memorials. In addition, we strongly recommend institutional changes to support Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other students of color at the University of Arkansas, including holistic University Perspectives (or equivalent) curriculum addressing antiracism, expended scholarship opportunities, and continued recruitment practices to diversify the student, faculty, and staff populations.

Removing the Fulbright statue, renaming the college, and renaming Brough commons would not impinge on the University’s other core values, namely academic freedom and service through teaching, research and outreach.  Rather, the removal of both the statue and names will advance teaching and research by promoting a more searching examination of the nation’s ongoing struggle with racial discrimination.