A West Texas A&M University researcher launched a public survey Tuesday about a Confederate statue and public school named after Gen. Robert E. Lee in Amarillo.
The anonymous, online survey available through WT’s website asks: Should a memorial to Confederate soldiers in Amarillo’s Ellwood Park should be removed? If so, if it should be placed in a museum or destroyed?
It also asks if Robert E. Lee Elementary should be renamed and offers an opportunity to write in recommendations for a new name.
“A couple of my colleagues have been discussing it, and I thought it would be interesting to do a survey,” said the survey’s author, Dave Rausch, Teel Bivins Professor of Political Science at WT.
Rausch said he received approval to pursue the survey from the WT Institutional Review Board on Tuesday.
The Ellwood Park Statue was dedicated in 1931. It bears the inscription “In Memory of our Confederate Soldiers” and depicts a Confederate flag and a man with a rifle.
Lee Elementary was dedicated in 1952 in north Amarillo.
The survey is supposed to take less than 10 minutes and includes multiple-choice questions and opportunities for write-in responses.
Rausch said he expects the survey to be available anywhere from a week to the end of September, depending on the number of responses. He said he hopes to receive 300 to 400 responses.
Rausch said he also hopes to use the data gathered as an example in social statistics courses and for publication in political science journals.
The survey also includes demographic questions and asks about political affiliation.
The first question asks: “Do you approve or disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing as President?”
“It might be kind of interesting to see if that might color how people view some of the later questions about the statues and how the world is going today,” Rausch said.
The survey comes a day after the Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees met in closed session about renaming the elementary school. No action was taken. Weeks earlier, residents took turns arguing for and against the removal of the Ellwood Park statue at an Amarillo City Council meeting.
Rausch said he was not contacted by the school board — or the city — about creating a survey, but he said he would share it with them if asked.
A formal research proposal said the “goal is to provide some answers to current public policy questions.” It also said, “Local governments may act on public policy using the information provided by this survey.”
“I was not aware of the survey, but I’d certainly be interested in seeing the results,” Amarillo ISD Board of Trustees President Jim Austin said.
Austin, trustees and the school district’s attorney met in private for more than two hours Monday night. Austin declined to comment on the meeting or say how much of that time was spent discussing re-naming the school.
“We’re still seeking counsel from the school attorney and it’s under consideration,” he said Tuesday.