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A Commitment to Inclusion in Texas Mathematics and Science

A Commitment to Inclusion in Texas Mathematics and Science

​Dean Goldbart sent a message to the community after Interim President Jay Hartzell announced that the building once named for R.L. Moore would be renamed and that Painter Hall would soon have a new Heman M. Sweatt entrance.

D​ear CNS community,

News today that the building that houses the Departments of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy at The University of Texas at Austin will be renamed for these disciplines was welcome here in Natural Sciences, where many faculty, students and staff have been calling for the building's renaming for years. I want to thank President Jay Hartzell for this decision, which fits well with ongoing work in the College to make ours an inclusive and welcoming home for all members of our community.

In our departments as well as collegewide and campuswide, multiple efforts are underway to redesign the structures and systems built over UT's history, so that current and future talented and passionate individuals interested in Texas science and mathematics find a supportive and empowering community here. As you know, I recently invited your feedback and input, as we and many departments work to finalize and implement a complete action plan in August. Its tenets will include, to name but a few, recruitment of diverse researchers and educators to join our community; outreach to new generations from underserved areas; and training to ensure cultural competencies within the community. Our departments – including, critically, the three departments located in PMA – have developed complementary plans of action, and we are coordinating across the college.

Installed now in PMA and buildings around Natural Sciences are posters and digital displays celebrating World Changers – dozens of accomplished scientists and mathematicians from populations often underrepresented in STEM. Today, the University has further committed to adding contextualization displays in Natural Sciences buildings that honestly address earlier exclusion of people from our campus. This will include a display in PMA about the history of the 1974 renaming of the building for Professor Robert Lee Moore. The University, in addition, will create a new Heman M. Sweatt entrance to the building that is named for former UT president T.S. Painter. As President Hartzell indicated today, the university will work at "reimagining, redesigning and rededicating a major space in the building as an exhibit and gathering place." UT will use that space to "tell the story of the U.S. Supreme Court case of Sweatt v. Painter [and] recognize Mr. Sweatt's courage and leadership in changing the world through the 1950 case that he won, allowing him and other Black students to attend UT."

Most UT undergraduates will take classes somewhere in the 19-floor Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy building, and many will enter Painter Hall on their way to engage with College of Natural Sciences staff, faculty and one another. Today's announcements about CNS buildings and other University priorities described in the president's email integrate meaningfully with the college's broad efforts to become more welcoming for future world-changing mathematicians and scientists, who will represent the diversity of Texas and our nation.

In partnership with the campus, we recognize that living up to our values obligates us, as we adopt a new name for one of UT's largest academic buildings, also to show up with determined resolution to address larger forces of racism and exclusion. I am heartened by the momentum among undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff and leadership, inspiring our community to ensure that we become the institution we aim to be. We shall not rest until we prove ourselves a model for belonging and a foundation for full flourishing by all in STEM.

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Tuesday, 31 January 2023

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