By Jon Herskovitz
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A panel at the University of Texas recommended moving to museums or leaving in place, with notes of explanation, statues of Confederate leaders on campus that have been the subject to recent protests, the school said on Monday.
The statues, placed decades ago on the campus of the left-leaning university in Austin, a liberal city in conservative Texas, gained new attention in June amid the debate in South Carolina about taking down the Confederate battle flag on the state's capitol grounds.
A month ago, South Carolina removed the Confederate battle flag, a symbol of the South's pro-slavery legacy, from the state capitol grounds in the wake of a white gunman fatally shooting nine black worshipers at a historic church.
A task force report in Austin made five recommendations for the statues that ranged from leaving them in place with plaques that would provide historical context to removing them to an exhibit elsewhere on campus.
No deadline has been set for when the university must make a decision.
Some of the statues that were vandalized in June.
They included those of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee and Texas Confederate commander Albert Sidney Johnston. Each had "Black Lives Matter" painted on their bases while the Davis statue also had "Dump the Chumps" painted on it.
The campus has several monuments to the Confederacy and its leaders in large part due to a wealthy benefactor named George Washington Littlefield, who fought in the Civil War with Terry's Texas Rangers.
He donated money to the university on the stipulation that the Southern heritage of Texas be preserved.
In Texas and other former Confederate states, there are numerous monuments and places named after Confederate leaders.
(Additional reporting by Jim Forsyth in San Antonio)