Scholars Say U. of Texas Monument to Victims of 1966 Sniper Bears an Incorrect Latin Word

A new monument at the University of Texas at Austin honoring the 17 victims of a 1966 sniper uses a Latin word incorrectly, according to three scholars in the university’s classics department, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

A committee of university officials and former students planned the memorial, which was dedicated on Monday, the 50th anniversary of the attack, in which Charles Whitman opened fire from the campus’s landmark tower. On the monument, which sits on the north side of the tower, the Latin word “interfectum” is etched into granite above the victims’ names but is grammatically incorrect and negative in tone, according to the scholars, reports the Statesman.

The word “is completely and coldly impersonal, meaning ‘that which has been killed’ or ‘some thing that has been killed,’” Karl Galinsky, one of the classics professors, told the newspaper. “It clearly doesn’t do justice to the personal connection, the personal experience, the trauma that, as you could tell, so many people still feel.” Other professors noted that no one in the classics department had been consulted on the word choice, according to the Statesman.

Erica Saenz, the university’s associate vice president for diversity, told the newspaper that administrators wanted to honor the term selected by the committee, but “we should have gone deeper” in confirming the meaning of the word. The university will work with faculty and committee members to agree on what should be done, including possibly changing the word, said Ms. Saenz.

However, some classics professors disagree on what word should replace “interfectum.” Lesley Dean-Jones, chairwoman of the department, would prefer “interfecti,” which is the masculine plural form, whereas Mr. Galinsky told the Statesman that “in memoriam” would be more appropriate because “it works just fine and is not overly sentimental.”

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