Amazement at the speed and efficacy of historical scholarship in UT dorm case





Thomas D. Russell, a professor of law at the University of Denver, said that his friends have varying reactions to the impact of a scholarly paper he published in March. His friends in public relations can't believe it took so long for the subject of the paper to respond to an image disaster. His historian friends, however, are amazed by the speed with which history research is having as concrete a result -- especially since this involves a decision in higher education, where change comes slowly.

Russell's paper -- published on the Social Science Research Network -- drew attention to William Stewart Simkins (1842-1929), for whom a dormitory at the University of Texas at Austin was named in the 1950s. Simkins was a longtime law professor at Texas, but before that, he and his brother helped organize the Florida branch of the Ku Klux Klan -- an organization he defended throughout his life, including while serving as a law professor. Russell's paper led to public discussion in Austin of the appropriateness of naming a university building for a Klan leader. On Friday, William Powers Jr., president of the University of Texas at Austin, announced that he will ask the university system's Board of Regents this month to change the name....


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