Officials at Texas A&M University say they have never intended to remove a statue of Sul Ross, a revered figure in the college’s history that has drawn controversy from the left.

Lawrence Sullivan “Sully” Ross is an icon in the history of the Lone Star State. His legacy includes serving as Texas governor, president of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (Texas A&M’s precursor), and a general in the Confederate Army.

That last part is what some students find controversial.

While some student activist groups unsuccessfully called for the statue’s removal in 2017, the effort gained momentum during the Black Lives Matter protests this past summer. In June, a series of protests emerged over the statue’s fate. The Young Democratic Socialists of America at Texas A&M organized a “Bye Bye Sully Ross” protest, while a group composed mostly of Aggie alumni countered with the “Rally Around Sully.” While the event was peaceful, one of the university’s liberal arts professors was arrested for criminal trespass during the demonstration.

A few days later, Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young announced a historical representation commission that would “begin with making a recommendation on the Lawrence Sullivan Ross statue in the near future.”

Although the revelation that the commission wasn’t authorized to remove the statue comes as welcome news to some Texas A&M students and alumni, it probably shouldn’t have been too surprising.

In August of last year, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote a nonbinding opinion stating that only the state Legislature has the legal authority to authorize permanent removal of the statue. A&M System Chancellor John Sharp later concluded that “based on the Attorney General’s ruling, the statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross cannot be moved by anyone at Texas A&M University.”

After learning the college never intended to get rid of the statue, left-leaning student organizations responded critically.

Campus activist and self-described socialist Edgar Rivera Jr. tweeted:

Nah today’s announcements represent @TAMU leadership’s commitment to maintaining existing racial power structures while continuing to ignore the glaring discrimination that exists on our campus. What we need is anti-racist ACTION

Many students, however, reacted favorably to the news.

The campus group Young Conservatives of Texas at Texas A&M told Texas Scorecard they were “very pleased that the Texas A&M University administration and commission formed over this debacle rightly decided to not cave into the radical historically ignorant leftist mob who were trying to baselessly defame and slander a cornerstone of Texas A&M.”

Michael Swirsky

Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Michael Swirsky is a writing fellow for Texas Scorecard. Interests include speech and debate, chess, and of course Texas politics.