“There was always the assumption that you could put those monuments up and take them down, and they were taken down,” Brundage said. “The landscape we have now, for practical purposes, is essentially frozen.”
After the renaming of Carolina Hall in May, the Board of Trustees put a 16-year ban on renaming University buildings in place.
“I think that the University’s role is to foster an environment that makes all students feel safe and welcome on campus,” said Resita Cox, president of Ebony Reader’s Onyx Theatre and a member of the Black Student Movement.
“When you hand out diversity fliers to Indian students (and) African-American students, and then you get here and there are monuments that are standing against everything that your community is for —it’s just a slap in the face.”
Pray said he has heard students say they feel unsafe on campus, but doesn’t think speech alone can make people feel unsafe.
“An opinion of a fellow classmate cannot make you unsafe,” Pray said. “It can make you very uncomfortable. Even when there’s an opinion you disagree with, it doesn’t make you unsafe.”
June Beshea, organizer for The Real Silent Sam movement, disagreed.
“I think you can say whatever you want to say, but I don’t think I should have to listen to it. It’s dehumanizing,” Beshea said. “How I feel on this campus shouldn’t be turned into, ‘Let’s have a board’ or ‘Let’s have a polite conversation.’ It shouldn’t be a conversation because if it was a white man’s humanity, there wouldn’t be that conversation.”
UNC Professor of Law Mary-Rose Papandrea, who teaches courses about the First Amendment and media law, said First Amendment rights extend to the University. Free speech protects all speech, even that which makes students uncomfortable, she said.
“At the moment, our country has a very solid, long-standing tradition,” she said. “We believe in very robust, messy public discourse.”