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New Home Suggested for Defaced King Statue

Sunday, September 12, 2004; Page A02

The Martin Luther King Jr. statue on the University of Texas campus in Austin has been vandalized twice in 19 months. It was egged on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2003, and last month it was defaced with silver spray paint. So why not send the statue of the civil rights leader to a school that would respect and love it?

That's what a UT management and sociology professor, John Butler, has proposed -- somewhat in jest but also to make a serious point. In a recent e-mail to university President Larry R. Faulkner, the African American professor suggested moving the 12-foot statue to Morehouse College, King's alma mater in Atlanta, "where he is loved." He said Faulkner responded and politely disagreed with him.

University of Texas students, from left, Estrella de Leon, Raquel Rodriguez and Lupita Flores watch over the Martin Luther King Jr. statue during a vigil on Sept. 3. (Jay Janner -- AP)

The latest act of vandalism was condemned by Faulkner in an e-mail to the university's staff and students. Then two weeks ago, Faulkner announced he would soon hire a new vice provost in charge of diversity. He was following a recommendation made by a task force created last year after the statue was egged, racial profiling allegations were lodged against campus police, and one fraternity was suspended and another was sanctioned for sponsoring parties that derided African Americans.

Butler acknowledges he mostly wanted to make a point. "Politically, the university would never move it. But we have a choice," said Butler, who added that his suggestion was prompted by students who came to him after the latest vandalism. Some of them, led by the Black Student Alliance, organized a 24-hour vigil at the statue that began Sept. 2.

"Somebody has to say: We love Martin Luther King," Butler said. "It's just a statue, but this statue carries a lot of emotionalism with it."

-- Sylvia Moreno

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