A statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis has been removed from the University of Texas at Austin campus mall amid a nationwide debate over the place of Confederate symbols. The statue, which has been the source of considerable tension on campus, will be moved from a main area to the school’s history museum.
"While every historical figure leaves a mixed legacy, I believe Jefferson Davis is in a separate category, and that it is not in the university’s best interest to continue commemorating him on our Main Mall,” university President Gregory Fenves said in a statement on the school’s website.
The statement further noted Davis held little connection with Texas, and the statue is a better fit for an educational exhibit.
The statue has been the target of criticism, as well as vandalism, as Confederate flag and other symbols of the Confederacy have been taken down around the country. Those who favored the statue's removal have criticized it as a symbol of discrimination, given the south's legacy of slavery while supporters of the Confederate symbols have said such symbols are integral to southern heritage.
— Texas Tribune (@TexasTribune) August 30, 2015
University officials are touting it as a move forward. "This is an iconic moment," said Gregory Vincent, the university's vice president for diversity and community engagement, according to the Austin American-Statesman. "It really shows the power of student leadership."
The Sons of Confederate Veterans, a Confederate heritage organization, filed a lawsuit to try to prevent the university from removing the statue. The court case managed to set back plans to relocate the Davis statue. The Confederate group compared the proposal to relocate the statue to the Islamic State group’s destruction of artifacts in Iraq and Syria, the Associated Press reported.
Other statues of Confederate figures -- including Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Albert Sidney Johnston -- will remain in place on the campus campus for now.
A debate over Confederate symbols erupted following the mass shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, that left nine parishioners dead. In its aftermath, the state’s Legislature voted to remove a Confederate flag at the state Capitol in Columbia.