Of the 11 statues on the 40 acres, only one is a woman of historical importance — Barbara Jordan. Although many women have made significant contributions to UT, the University has failed to publicly recognize them on the same scale as men. UT should dedicate more resources to honoring the accomplishments of women through monuments or other forms of public display.
Women at UT have contributed considerably to academia, yet their success remains fairly unknown. Within the College of Natural Sciences alone, women such as Cecile DeWitt-Morette, an award-winning physics professor, or Beatrice Tinsley, who provided the first convincing evidence that galaxies were not static, could be considered as strong contenders for public recognition.
UT could also honor influential female authors, female civil rights leaders or any other women that made a significant societal impact in Texas. Ideally, each college should find a way to publicly honor influential women specific to their field of study.
Kinsolving Dormitory dedicates an entire wall to honoring women throughout history, but this is not enough. Restricting the recognition of women to an all-girls dorm shows a limited mindset that women cannot be honored in a more public way among their male counterparts.
By not effectively recognizing the success of women, the University is being complicit to a misogynistic culture that ignores female accomplishments in favor of those of men. Plan II and psychology freshman Isabel Riley said the abundance of male-centric monuments was something that quickly caught her attention.
“I noticed that we only have one or two statues dedicated to women and I don’t think that’s very fair,” Riley said. “There are also accomplished women in the world. Just because certain statues have been here a long time doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be updated to reflect how society feels today and the way that the women on campus feel.”
Although UT has many initiatives to support women in different fields, the administration should also consider honoring women on a more public scale. Riley recognized that the University has made efforts to create a more gender-equal campus, but said there is more work to be done.
“I don’t think that UT is necessarily trying to proliferate a stigma of inequality, but it’s still something that is an issue,” Riley said. “ If you walk around campus, you can see statues of men and buildings named after men, but you never really see anything honoring the many women who have benefitted UT with their accomplishments.”
The decision to honor women is not completely within the control of university administration — students who feel passionately about this issue can also get involved. In 1999, students themselves raised funds to erect the Martin Luther King Jr. statue which now resides on the East Mall. Similarly, the statue of Cesar Chavez was initiated and partially funded by students.
It may be possible for students to fund monuments that honor the women of UT, especially since there is now vacant spaces after the removal of the Confederate statues on the main mall. Another way to recognize women may be to fund public art projects around campus such as murals or paintings depicting influential female figures. Publicly honoring prominent women is essential in sparking conversations about gender equality, and both students and the administration can help to make this a reality.
Nayak is a communication sciences and disorders freshman from Austin.