Louis G. Tassinary is the Associate Department Head of the Department of Visualization.
To the editor,
On the morning of Wednesday, June 19, 1930, William Roan, an African American, was found dead in a pasture near Benchley, six miles northeast of Bryan. According to Arthur F. Raper’s book, “The Tragedy of Lynching” "the heads and faculties of [Texas A&M & Allen Academy], while not in sympathy with the mob activities of June 1930, did not feel any responsibility for preventing them.” Ninety years later, it appears to many that A&M still does not feel any responsibility, choosing always to counter-argue rather than listen. To dig in rather than reach out. To deflect rather than accept.
Now is not the time for commissions or further delay. We’ve been down this road before. Endless debates about which individual will or will not be good enough to warrant a statue will devolve ineluctably into winners and losers.
I proposed that a new figure or monument supplement the Sul Ross statue, one commissioned by the university and based on a juried international competition. The new structure would be titled “The Unknown Aggie.” We would dedicate it to all students, faculty, and staff – past, present, and future – whether due to race, gender, ethnicity, creed, social class or tragedy, who were denied the opportunity to be an Aggie: either explicitly through policy, implicitly through climate or unfortunately through happenstance. And then let the pennies fall where they may.
“A moment’s courage or a lifetime of regret. It’s always been a choice.”
So what race will this “unknown Aggie” be? I’m sure whatever is decided it will not have the unifying effect you are hoping. Just because people don’t agree with your opinion does not mean they are not listening. They just disagree. And just because some people believe Sully should stay doesn’t mean they are wrong, or racist.
Thanks for your reply. My "proposal" was to leave the door wide open with respect to the shape or content of a new statue/monument. The final project would be determined by the creativity of the entrants and wisdom of the jury. With respect to Sully staying, as I stated, I believe he should. My proposal is that he now simply have some company.
Naming a structure /monument after an unknown Aggie? We already have that. The whole campus is a testament to how thousands of Aggies have been responsible for the recent report that TAMU is the #1 University in Texas and the #11 in the US and few of them are named. Sure we have the Cushing Library and Field house but stop a random student and ask them who he was and what did he do for TAMC. Or ask them about Gathright Hall as to whom he was and where is the Hall. Why do we name anything after these folks? They contributed something in the past that allowed us to be where we are now. What has this unknown Aggie done as an individual to receive a monument? Plenty of course as an alumni that gives back to TAMU more than most but how to identify him/her in a monument? Look at how the Sull Ross monument was built and take that lead. Form a committee to design, fund and implement the project. Start a contest to design a stylized structure which does not reflect any sex, race or color and do it.
P.S. In June of 1901 E.B. Cushing and the Houston Light Guards took a special SP train which E.B. arranged to rescue a young man in Trinity from a lynch mob after being accused of rape.
Thank you for your reply. With respect to the title of my proposal, I believe you may have misunderstood my intent. The unknown Aggie, in this context, is not someone whom we knew to be an Aggie yet whose identity is unknown. Rather it refers to someone who could've been an Aggie yet was denied the opportunity. My idea was to honor those who, through no fault of their own, were denied the opportunity to become an Aggie. The proposal was meant to provide a stark contrast to the traditional ways in which moments have been designed and financed in the past. With respect to national rankings, according the USNWR ranking for this year, TAMU was 26th among public universities and UT was 13th. And with respect to national universities, both public and private, TAMU was 66th. To the best of my knowledge TAMU's national ranking this year is the same as it was about 15 years ago and its ranking among public universities has gone down a bit over the past the past few years. At least according to the USNWR, TAMU, while an undeniably great University, is neither #1 in Texas nor #11 in the US. With respect to EB Cushing I did not know that piece of history. Thank you for sharing.
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