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Trustees spent hours on a proposal to rename Saunders Hall

Students from the Real Silent Sam Coalition attended the UNC Board of Trustees' meeting to discuss renaming the academic building Saunders Hall.
Students from the Real Silent Sam Coalition attended the UNC Board of Trustees' meeting to discuss renaming the academic building Saunders Hall.

Hearing eight different presentations by students, faculty and historians, UNC Board of Trustees’ University Affairs committee did not make a final decision on the future of Saunders Hall.

“My understanding and my belief with everyone on the board is that we are going to try to act as quickly as we can. But they are going to continue with their deliberate nature,” Chancellor Carol Folt said after the University Affairs committee held its Wednesday meeting.

Folt said she could not answer whether this issue will be resolved at the May meeting of the Board.

In the past year, there have been renewed efforts to take William L. Saunders’ name off of the building on the lower quad. Wednesday’s meeting was packed due to the release of board members Chuck Duckett and Alston Gardner’s report and research on Saunders Hall and its potential renaming.

“This might be a record for the most people we have ever had at a committee meeting,” Gardner said before the committee began its session.

Before any presentations, Gardner and Duckett explained their process. Duckett said he spent hundreds of hours researching and consulting more than 200 students, experts and historians.

“Our strategy in this discussion is to build a comprehensive solution — the names of buildings are just part of that,” Gardner said.

While there is a dispute between activists and the Board about what specific actions Saunders was or wasn’t involved in, there was one key fact the two groups agree upon: Saunders was identified by the 1920 Board of Trustees as the head of the KKK.

This segued into presentations, which were led by The Real Silent Sam Coalition. Seniors Omololu Babatunde, Dylan Mott and Taylor Webber-Fields spoke on behalf of the group.

The three students’ speech covered topics ranging from historical microaggressions to current, Yik Yak-influenced culture while their supporters held up signs with sayings such as “Can you see us now?” and “BOT, value ALL of your students.”

Babatunde questioned the University’s use of students of color in brochures and on websites when the campus and its monuments oppress them.

“Diversity without justice is not enough,” she said. “If you are asking us to be your diversity, then we are demanding justice.”

The coalition was followed by UNC College Republicans’ chairman Frank Pray, who said he and his organization supported the removal of Saunders’ name from the building.

Law professor Eric Muller presented another idea to the Board: Instead of renaming Saunders, he proposed turning the building into a site where students could learn about the history of the state and its flagship University.

“Carolina was built not just on the brilliance of a William Friday but the ugliness of a William Saunders,” he said.

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