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Belo Center for New Media One of Multiple UT Buildings Named After Confederates
Alfred H. Belo was the founder of the Dallas Morning News. He was also a confederate officer. The Belo Center for New Media was endowed in honor of him. The Dallas Morning News was run by Belo’s business partner George Dealey, who named the corporation in honor of A.H.Belo.
According to J.B Bird, the Director of Media Relations and Digital Newsroom at UT, in addition to Belo, “the Moody College of Communication also honors the company’s legacy as a media innovator,” an idea also indicated by signs in the Belo Center for New Media.
The most noticeable example, the plaque on the second story of the Belo Center for New Media, “celebrates three leaders who built the modern company, all three of whom were UT alumni and grandsons of George Dealey,” Bird claims.
Those men were Joe M. Dealey, H. Ben Decherd, and James M. Moroney who together with the Belo Foundation donated a total of $15 million to the Moody College of Communication.
Despite the recent removal of confederate statues on campus following the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, multiple buildings on campus continue to display the name of Confederates.
When it opened in 2012, the Belo Center for New Media joined the ranks of buildings like Waggener Hall, The Littlefield Home , and Roberts Hall- all of which were named before the turn of the century.
“We hope no one feels uncomfortable in the building,” Bird said when confronted with the building’s history. Bird explained that the building was meant to invoke a “modern media company developed by three UT alumni, a company whose history of journalism and media innovation sets a positive example for communication students.”
Even with Belo’s history in mind, Robert Gonzalez, Communications Director for University Democrats stated that “Texas and our university should hold no sympathy for those who fought to discriminate against certain groups.”
Gonzales was careful to point out that statues have a more immediate effect on the student body than buildings might, but conceded that “we tend to give [buildings] acronyms which dilutes the history” and that “there are students who know the history and it does affect them.”
Daniel Nkoola, a sophomore Radio-Television-Film major and a member of the Student African American Brotherhood, was already aware of many buildings connections to the Confederacy.“These are men who did not want you at this institution or to exist as a person.” Nkoola said. “It feels like a slap in the face.”
While few students may know of the history behind these buildings on campus, plaques commemorating the namesakes of these buildings do not make their Confederate past transparent.
Students have no way of knowing these building’s Confederate associations since it is omitted from plaques.
Outside of the Littlefield Home, the plaque notes that Littlefield fought in the Civil War, but does not make it clear that he fought as a Confederate.
The plaque on the second floor of the Belo Media Center highlights Belo’s role in creating the Belo Corporation that still exists today, but fails to mention his Confederate past.
“That’s absolutely appropriate,” argued Matt Maupin, a junior Government and Rhetoric major. “These buildings were named in honor of their achievements, not their Confederate past.”
Maupin explained that his issue with eliminating anything commemorating a Confederate for actions outside of their time in the Confederacy negates their contributions.
“We shouldn’t carry this assumption [their past] is automatically separate” and say “it’s okay to honor him since he isn’t famous for being a Confederate,” argues Nkoola, adding that Belo and other confederates carried the same viewpoints later in life as they had in the civil war
Aimee Sixta, a senior Physics major who started a Facebook movement to rename Robert Lee Moore Hall, believes buildings named after Confederates are indicative of a larger problem on campus: the university not listening to the viewpoints of students and faculty who are concerned about the campus climate these buildings create.
“The more recent naming of buildings like Belo does not make any more of this okay, but it does show that the administration does not take its students concerns seriously.” Sixta argued.
For some, “it sort of adds a layer of context to previous acts this year that makes them feel more hollow,” Nkoola said.
Despite Austin Independent School District’s recent decision to rename schools with Confederate ties, no similar action has been announced by the UT Administration.
Nkoola worries it could take another tragic event like Charlottesville for the University to take action against buildings honoring Confederates.
While Nkoola doubts UT administrators were malicious in their intent to name The Belo Center for New Media after a Confederate officer, he noted that it “speaks to a culture of not paying attention to [building’s pasts] till you realize these carry significance.”
“No one is thinking deeply about what these things mean except those who are affected by it.” Nkoola said.