By Lani Guinier and Penda D. Hair for theRoot.com

UT-A SIMKINS-large

The former Simkins Hall Dormitory, named for a law professor who was a notorious member of the Ku Klux Klan. It is now called the Creekside Residence.

Within five weeks of the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education outlawing segregation, the University of Texas named its newest dormitory in honor of Col. William Simkins, a law-school professor from 1899 to 1929. Prior to joining UT’s faculty, Simkins organized a Ku Klux Klan chapter in Florida that murdered 25 former slaves in the years following emancipation. While at UT, Simkins delivered well-received annual lectures in which he bragged about exploits as “a criminal and a terrorist, a gun-toting, mask-wearing, night-riding Klansman.”

This week the Supreme Court will hear Fisher v. University of Texas, a case challenging UT’s affirmative action program. The Supreme Court has said: “Context matters when reviewing race-based governmental action under the Equal Protection Clause.”…

On UT’s campus, Simkins is not ancient history.

UT Austin tower sunset

The Tower at the University of Texas at Austin

UT reluctantly renamed Simkins Hall in 2010 only after protests by students and faculty. …Even today, all UT students walk a campus dotted with monuments honoring segregationists and Confederate leaders, including Robert E. Lee Statue, Painter Hall (named after a UT president who defended segregation), Robert Lee Moore Hall (Moore was a math professor who refused to teach black students) and Texas Cowboys’ Pavilion (where racially derogatory minstrel shows were held).

African-American and Latino students describe a campus where the ghosts of Simkins and his ilk lurk, maintaining an atmosphere of racial isolation and hostility….

To help overcome the ongoing impact of its racist history, UT adopted a very modest form of holistic review designed to admit a student body that better serves Texas in the 21st century. Three-quarters of the students who benefit from holistic review are neither black nor Latino.

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