Alston Gardner, vice chairman of the Board of Trustees, said the board would vote on May 28 to decide on a package of proposals related to Saunders Hall and the contextualization of campus buildings’ history.
This decision comes more than a year after The Real Silent Sam Coalition, an activist group on campus, presented the issue to the Board of Trustees in May 2014.
“We are not hostile at all to the activists,” Gardner said. “In fact, I think many of the things that they want, they’ll see. It won’t be everything, but it will be many of them. They need to understand that we took a much broader perspective, and that’s our job.”
The Board of Trustees opened a public comments section on their website in March, a move that many activists found disappointing, including Dylan Mott, a recent UNC graduate and Real Silent Sam Coalition organizer.
“I think this is a very popular thing for administrators to do because it looks like they’re being very democratic, but really what they’re doing is watering down the voices of the people who actually know what they’re talking about who have been working for this,” Mott said.
Chuck Duckett, member of the Board of Trustees, said some students have insinuated that they are simply delaying a decision.
“We’re not delaying at all,” Duckett said. “We’ve been on this as hard as we can be since last March when we took it up. There’s been a staggering amount of work that goes into this. What we’re turning up with is it’s not just about Saunders Hall; it’s about addressing this issue for Carolina, period, and what can we do moving forward.”
Geography professor Altha Cravey works in Saunders Hall and said she hopes to see the name changed.
“(The name) kind of encourages all the inequalities that we experience in our daily lives — the privilege of being white or the privilege of being male or the privilege of being heterosexual,” she said. “To me, having a name like that in the landscape privileges all those power dynamics that we live with every day.”
But she said she appreciated the board’s recent efforts in investigating the issue.
“At the last (meeting), they had clearly shifted into talking about the issue in the terms in which The Real Silent Sam Coalition had been talking about it for a very long time, so it’s clear they are listening, and I deeply appreciate it,” she said.
Duckett said that this issue has been around for many years, and he’s proud that the current board is taking up the issue.
Mott said he felt the board was ignoring solutions that the students were presenting.
“They can pat themselves on the back as much as they want to, but until I see results, I don’t think they have anything to applaud themselves for,” he said.
Gardner said it was important for the board to consider many different options and opinions.
“The students have their interests, and we have the University’s community’s broader interests at heart,” he said. “And while there is overlap, we are not obligated to serve 35 or 40 activist students. We are obligated to serve the entire University community — undergraduates, professional students, faculty, staff and alumni. So we have a much broader mandate than they do. I’m not surprised that they think their opinion is the most important opinion there is, but it’s not the only opinion, and we have to consider the opinion of others.”
Omololu Babatunde, a recent UNC graduate and Real Silent Sam Coalition organizer, said she hopes to see this issue resolved soon.
“I want to see this come about so that more students can live full lives at UNC because really that’s what you’re compromising.”