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UT Austin to keep Stan Richards' name on advertising school after he called motel campaign 'too black'

The Stan Richards School of Advertising & Public Relations signage found at the University of Texas at Austin on Nov. 22, 2021.
Jack Myer for The Texas Tribune
The Stan Richards School of Advertising & Public Relations at UT Austin will keep its name.

The University of Texas at Austin will keep the name of Dallas ad giant Stan Richards on its school of advertising, more than a year after he said a marketing campaign for a Motel 6 ad campaign was “too Black” for the motel’s “white supremacist constituents.”

“While we strongly denounce Richards’ remarks, we also acknowledge his remorse and his condemnation of racism and bigotry in all its forms,” Moody College of Communication Dean Jay Bernhardt said in a report emailed Monday to the college community. “When considering Richards’ offensive comments and subsequent apology on balance with his many significant contributions to the field and the College, we have decided that his name will remain on the School.”

The decision comes despite calls from faculty and students within the advertising and public relations school.

Richards made the statement in a Zoom meeting in October 2020 with about 40 employees.

Bernhardt said the college will rename some selected projects within the advertising and public relations school, including the “Stan Talks” video series. He also pledged a recommitment to the school’s diversity, equity and inclusion plans, including research about the state of diversity in advertising and public relations, and to increase the number of underrepresented groups of students in the school.

Richards was largely condemned for his comments at the time, which came on the heels of a tumultuous summer of racial reckoning across the country in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of a white police officer.

An apologetic Richards ultimately stepped away from the Richards Group, the company he founded in 1976, as multiple companies severed ties due to his words, including Motel 6.

“I have deeply disappointed those who have looked to me for guidance and leadership. In that moment, I wiped out years of trust,” Richards said in a recorded apology video to the UT-Austin advertising and public relations school community released in the days after his comments came to light. “All I can say is that I was wrong. I'm sorry.”

Initially, Bernhardt sent out an email last fall that said leaders of the college were also concerned by Richards’ comments and would be looking into the situation.

The college then hired two outside experts to “help us gather more information and ensure all voices from our community are given an opportunity to be heard.” The school hired Michael Kinkaid, the founder and chief executive of a company called Overcoming Racism, to lead five meetings with faculty, students and staff.

An unnamed outside expert was hired to conduct an independent review of Richards’ remarks and the “context and history within which they occurred.”

Richards’ comments caused outrage among faculty and students in the Stan Richards School within the Moody College of Communication. The Daily Texan editorial board called on the university to rename the school.

“University leaders shouldn’t have to rely on an “outside expert” to tell them what the majority of their students, faculty and staff already know: Stan Richards’ words were racist and hurtful,” the editorial read.

The student equity council within the advertising and public relations school changed its name from the Stan Richards School’s Equity Council to the Texas ADV/PR Equity Student Council.

“This is not the leadership we need, and this is not the leadership we deserve,” the group said in a statement announcing the name change. “We need and deserve accountability, transparency, and leadership that understands that the industry and world has a long way to go on the path to real change and that no historically underrepresented group is “too” anything.”

The Moody College raised $10 million to establish the school bearing Richards’ name, which launched in 2014, with the help of contributions from corporations, foundations and individuals, including Richards.

In June, UT-Austin renamed the Belo Center for New Media to the G. B. Dealey Center for New Media at the request of the original donors and with the approval of the University of Texas Board of Regents. Dealey was a long-time publisher of the Dallas Morning News. Alfred Horatio Belo launched the Dallas Morning News, served as a Confederate colonel in the Civil War.

From The Texas Tribune

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