Rename T.S. Painter Hall N.D. Tyson Hall
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Although seemingly benign, the name T.S. Painter represents the epitome of institutionalized racism. In 1950, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously ruled in Sweatt v. Painter to grant African American student Heman Marion Sweatt admission to the University of Texas Law School. Sweatt was initially denied admission by University President T.S. Painter who opted to comply with Texas' segregation laws; thus rejecting Sweatt on the basis of his skin color rather than his academic credentials. We should not erase history, however, we should also not commemorate bigotry. Painter's legacy can be taught in classrooms, museums, and other educational environments. Naming a building after someone is not an educational tool, rather it is an honorary gesture. A building is not subjected to the academic scrutiny which T.S. Painter's legacy requires. On the other hand, Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is a distinguished alum who deserves to be honored on campus. He's broken a plethora of institutional barriers as a black scientist. He has won the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, the Isaac Asimov Award, and the Hubbard Medal to name a few of his accomplishments. Tyson has also been instrumental in cultivating a scientifically literate public. At least 135 million people worldwide watched a part of Tyson's 13-part documentary, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. Let's stop commemorating a bigot, and instead let's honor somebody who's constantly broken the barriers which people like T.S. Painter worked to uphold.
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