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Trustees to take up Saunders Hall renaming in meeting Wednesday

Students gather outside of Saunders Hall on Monday Feb. 2nd demanding the name be changed.

Students gather outside of Saunders Hall on Monday Feb. 2nd demanding the name be changed.

The University Affairs committee will meet today at the Rizzo Conference Center to provide updates about renaming Saunders Hall, contextualizing the Silent Sam statue and creating mandatory education for all incoming students about UNC’s racial history.

The board invited seven guest speakers, including UNC students Omolulu Babatunde, spokeswoman for the coalition, and Frank Pray, president of the UNC College Republicans.

The board also plans to launch a month-long online forum open to the UNC community, allowing people to submit comments and proposals. The board will convene in May to vote on a comprehensive solution.

The Real Silent Sam Coalition protested the name of Saunders Hall, which recognizes former UNC trustee and Ku Klux Klan chief organizer William Saunders.

Junior Kierra Campbell, a member of the Real Silent Sam Coalition, said the coalition is optimistic that the board will respond positively to the group’s efforts.

“The point of going to the meeting on Wednesday is to put more pressure on the Board of Trustees, letting them know that students are watching them, that it is not something they are going to let go,” Campbell said.

“It’s not necessarily rewriting history, but correcting past historical actions in order to make it a more inclusive environment for students,” Campbell said. “I hope the University lets (students) know that they do care about how students feel, and their actions reflect that.”

Board member Charles Duckett said the protests around Saunders Hall date back to the 1970s — but this is the first Board of Trustees to take action.

“We’ve agreed to take this up, we take it very seriously and we are going to deal with it,” Duckett said.

Board member Alston Gardner agreed.

“I think it is a timely discussion that is being had at a lot of universities — from Yale, to Clemson, to (East Carolina University) to Duke and UNC-(Greensboro),” he said.

In 2014, Duke University’s Board of Trustees voted to rename Aycock Residence Hall to East Residence Hall. East Carolina University also voted to rename its own Aycock Dormitory. Both are named for Charles Aycock, a former North Carolina governor and leader in the white supremacy movement.

Gardner said the board is very open to placing a plaque at the Silent Sam statue, which depicts a confederate solider, as well as teaching UNC’s racial history.

“I don’t think the solution is what Duke did and to sandblast ‘Aycock’ off the Aycock dormitory,” Gardner said. “Four years from now, there won’t be a single student who has any idea there was any history there to begin with.”

“That’s a sad solution.”

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