The newly-formed Black Students Association (BSA) at Rice University is demanding officials fund a Black House on campus as well as remove a prominent statue of the school’s slave-owning founder.
The group posted a statement on the Graduate Student Association’s official Facebook page with the changes they want to see made at their school.
“Here are what Black undergraduate students have demanded from Rice University administration,” graduate research assistant Dani Perdue wrote. “I hope they are listening! #NoMoreLipService #blacklivesmatter.”
BSA explained that a prospective Black House would have all the “features of a residential college” but be “specifically made for Black students and Black organizations to congregate and hold events.”
“It would be best to have a central, safe space that Black students can meet and hangout in anytime of the day,” BSA wrote in their statement.
Perdue made note that the students also want to see the removal of a statue of William Marsh Rice, the university’s founder was once known as the richest man in Texas who made his enormous fortune in oil, real estate and cotton, according to “The Short History of Race-Based Affirmative Action at Rice University” in The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, He was a slave-owning business man who left the majority of his estate to build the university in 1912 on the grounds that it would be for “whites only.”
Since then, Lincoln University, often referred to as the “Harvard of the South” has had challenges recruiting Black students and faculty. Efforts were made in the 1990s to increase retention, but the school’s conservative ideology has been said to be a prohibited factor in getting Black students to come and stay.
“Rice University’s history has included many racist moments such as the Klu Klux Klan chapter and blackface social gatherings,” the group wrote. “In addition to that, sitting at the center of our university is William Marsh Rice, the owner of 15 slaves during the mid-19th century.”
The BSA labeled the statue a “constant reminder” to many Black students of “what Rice University used to be like and what it stood for.”
“We believe that there could be numerous better options to represent the heart of our university and acknowledge Rice’s racist past,” wrote Perdue.
Suggestions for a replacement of the statue include the likeness of Raymond L. Johnson, the university's first Black student who was admitted in 1964 after Rice's “whites only” rule was overturned.
According to BSA’s website, the majority of Rice University’s students are still white (35.5 percent) while Black students account for just 4.93 percent of the student body.
Read the full statement here.