Statue of slaveholding founder of Rice University moved to new location 

The relocation of William Marsh Rice’s monument is part of a redesign of the Academic Quadrangle on the Houston campus.

Rice University is moving the statue of its founder, former slave owner William Marsh Rice, from its current place in the Academic Quadrangle to a less traversed area on its Houston campus. 

The relocation of Rice’s statue is part of an overall redesign of the Academic Quadrangle on the Houston campus. 

Rice University is moving the above statue of its founder, slave owner William Marsh Rice, from its location in the Academic Quadrangle to a less traversed area on its Houston grounds. (Photo: Adam C/Flickr)

“We intend for the Academic Quadrangle to both fully acknowledge the history of our founding and founder, and to mark and celebrate the important evolution and growth of our university over time,” Bob Ladd, the chairman of Rice University’s board, said in a statement on Jan. 25. “We believe the redesign will allow us to move forward as a communty, and we are grateful to Rice’s Task Force on Slavery, Segregation and Racial Injustice (which produced a 38-page examination of the university’s history) for its leadership as well as to the many students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other valued stakeholders for their thoughts and guidance in helping us reach this decision.”

Rice University was founded as the William Marsh Rice Institute for the Advancement of Literature, Science and Art as a gift by Rice to the city of Houston in 1891, with terms that work on its building begin only after his death. The entrepreneur was murdered by his valet in 1900, paving the way for classes to begin in 1912, per to the university website. 

According to the board, the founder’s statue was moved after more than 1,200 responses from students, faculty and staff about the issue. The move was also featured by The Houston Chronicle.

The guadrangle’s new design will reportedly feature a more “welcoming space,” as well as other artwork about the university’s past and future aspirations. Additionally, the university concluded “that the statue of William Marsh Rice known as the Founder’s Memorial should no longer be used as an iconic image of the university in its publicity.”

“This new vision for the Academic Quadrangle will reflect our growth and progress as a university and a community,” said Rice President David Leebron last month. “The campus discussions that informed the board’s decision were guided by a spirit of creating a stronger and more inclusive Rice, as we recognize both flaws and progress in our history. In every part of our community, we saw a wide range of views, but often shared aspirations. As a university, we strived to set an example of intellectual candor, respect, commitment to our values, and a willingness to engage in the hard conversations that are a precursor to progress.”

The university contends its “actions accomplish four important goals: they 1) acknowledge the central role of William Marsh Rice in establishing our university; 2) recognize that after nearly a century of change, the memorial to the founder ought no longer be the singular, dominating feature of the Academic Quadrangle; 3) create additional opportunities to recognize more fully our history and signature times in our evolution; and 4) reconfigure the Academic Quadrangle to be an engaging and active space for our community.”

Other universities moving racist monument statues include Ole Miss, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, the University of Alabama, and Washington and Lee University, according to The Washington Post

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