Geography professor tells police she won't remove "Hurston Hall" sign

Geography professor Altha Cravey said she was shocked to see police outside her office in Carolina Hall this morning. She was even more shocked to discover the reason—a “Hurston Hall” poster she had attached to her window.

One police officer spotted the sign on Cravey’s exterior window and was soon joined by two other officers inside the building, said Jim Gregory, directory of media relations.

“I tried to explain to them my rationale and at first it was a pretty calm conversation,” Cravey said. “Eventually they went away because I told them I wasn’t going to take it down.”

STORY SO FAR

  • Saunders Hall was named after William Saunders, a UNC alumnus who was also a Grand Dragon for the state's Klu Klux Klan.
  • UNC students have been pushing for years to rename the building. This past year, many students pushed for the building to be named after Zora Neale Hurston, who took classes at UNC before the school was officially integrated.
  • The UNC Board of Trustees voted to rename Saunders Hall on May 28. "Carolina Hall" was announced as the new name. 
  • The trustees also put a 16-year freeze on renaming any other buildings.

A similar incident occurred at the end of spring semester, Cravey said, in which police were called to remove a “Hurston Hall” banner that the Real Silent Sam Coalition draped over the building.

After accomplishing that, Cravey said, police entered the building.

“I was in Chicago in a meeting (during the incident) and a couple weeks after that I heard from colleagues downstairs that the police had also gone throughout the building and taken down every scrap of paper that said ‘Hurston.’”

For this reason, Cravey said, she put up her own sign — in solidarity.

“An educational institution where we teach and learn and debate can’t go around and take people’s signs and messages,” Cravey said. “I think they’re harassing me and they were harassing people in May.”

“I wasn’t afraid of them but it’s certainly disturbing to me that I work at an educational university and it takes three police officers to take a sign down on my window—and I have every right to put whatever I want on my window.”

The University does in fact have a policy in place that defines what can and can’t be posted around campus.

According to “The Use of University Facilities for Noncommercial and Commercial Purposes” Section VI.B.2, “No notice, advertisement, or document of any kind shall be attached to any wall, door, lamppost, tree, or other surface except as provided in Section VI.B.1”

Section VI.B.1 identifies where public information can be posted, such as on the “Cube” next to the Pit. The policy goes on to explain where campaign material can be posted.

Even with this policy, Gregory said what happened to Cravey was unnecessary.

“We realize this particular signage represents a sensitive issue, and public safety and administration officials have agreed that the facilities policy in question shouldn’t apply in this case,” Gregory said.

Cravey’s interaction with police Friday upset May 2015 graduate and activist Emilio Vicente.

“When I saw (Cravey’s tweet about the incident) I was mad that this happened to her — because she was a big supporter of changing Saunders Hall to Hurston Hall,” Vicente said. “This shouldn’t be happening right now. Especially in a university that celebrates freedom of speech and student activism.”

Cravey, however, seems unfazed.

“They can send 50 police over here—I’m not taking it down. They’ll have to fire me if they want me to take it down.”

university@dailytarheel.com

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