FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The University of Arkansas Board of Trustees met Wednesday morning for a special meeting and voted to keep the name and place of the J. William Fulbright statue on the campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
On Tuesday, President Dr. Donald Bobbitt recommended keeping the name and place of the statue of the former senator. He directed the university to add context to the statue in its current location in front of Old Main.
“If a path presents itself at a later time to consider the relocation of the statue that is consistent with state law, the Board can revisit this issue,” Bobbitt wrote.
Bobbitt pointed to Act 1003 of 2021, a law prohibiting the removal/moving of monuments on public property without a waiver from the Arkansas History Commission, as the reason why the UofA couldn’t move the Fulbright statue.
Fulbright, a segregationist and “Dixiecrat,” filibustered the Civil Rights Act and opposed the Voting Rights Act. His official biographer deemed him a racist.
“I’m not shocked, but I’m very disappointed,” said Daniel Webster, a former UA student who served on a committee formed to study Fulbright’s legacy. “I have three degrees from the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, and he wouldn’t have wanted me there.”
The Black Student Caucus publicly called for the UofA to make significant changes related to equity and inclusion in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, including the removal of Fulbright’s statue.
“We are not discouraged by the decisions made by the Board of Trustees,” the Caucus said in a statement. “We expected as much. We only say that it is impossible to stop change, it will happen whether any of us like it or not. We will continue to work. We have always been motivated by the words of Huey P. Newton, ‘I have the people behind me, and the people are my strength.'”
D’Andre Jones, a UA graduate and Fayetteville City Councilmember, said he understands Fulbright’s complicated legacy, but he said keeping the statue sends the wrong message to Black students.
“Anything that reflects the darkest time in our nation’s history should be removed,” Jones said. “It’s very unfortunate that the University of Arkansas doesn’t share that same perspective. However, I do appreciate that they’re informing the community and stating there is some complicated history.”
Supporters of Fulbright point to his role as the most-prominent legislative voice to come out strongly against the Vietnam War. The move earned him respect from liberal “doves” at the time. They also recognize his work in foreign affairs, including the famous cultural exchange program named in his honor.
The recommendation by former Chancellor Dr. Joseph Steinmetz was to move the statue elsewhere on campus but keep the name of the college.
The Board of Trustees also approved the resolution for renaming Brough Commons.