The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday January 23rd

Hurston Hall signs spark controversy

In addition to signs, police removed a Hurston Hall banner posted by The Real Silent Sam Coalition.

On Aug. 7, police attempted to remove a Hurston Hall sign from geography professor Altha Cravey’s window in Carolina Hall, citing University policy. Cravey refused to take down her sign. On the same day, the police removed another Hurston Hall sign from the religious studies graduate student lounge in the same building.

During the 2014-15 school year, students and faculty pushed for the renaming of Carolina Hall, formerly known as Saunders Hall, which was named after William Saunders, UNC alum and Grand Dragon of the state Ku Klux Klan. Support rallied behind naming the building after author Zora Neale Hurston, an African-American woman who took classes at UNC before the school was integrated. In May, the Board of Trustees renamed the building Carolina Hall.

Katie Merriman, a graduate student in the religious studies department, purchased the materials to make both of the Hurston Hall signs in the student lounge.

“I’m concerned because I feel like campus security silenced my fellow graduate students and I feel like that affects everyone on campus,” Merriman said.

In response to the April incident, Merriman and her colleague Micah Hughes spoke to Department of Public Safety officers.

While Merriman said DPS Chief Jeff McCracken told her in an email that her signs violated the University’s signage policy, Hughes said police told him that an anonymous complaint was made against the signs.

Hughes said when he arrived at DPS headquarters, police had little knowledge of the incident because an incident report was never made. Hughes said officers insinuated that the signs hanging in the graduate lounge were connected to the July 5 spray-painting of the Silent Sam monument.

“At first they didn’t seem to draw connections to a specific complaint. It seemed like they were drawing connections to the issue at hand, the signs, and then they tried to make the connection between the signs and the vandalism of Silent Sam, the statue,” Hughes said.

“So they said in kind of ambiguous terms that it was some kind of complaint on campus and the signs were removed but they didn’t give me any kind of direct details as to why.”

Randy Young, spokesman for DPS, confirmed over email that police were indeed responding to a complaint and that incident reports are generally not made unless officers are dispatched from the 911 Telecommunications Center.

Azhar Majeed, director of the individual rights education program at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said police intervention in the graduate students’ case did not seem warranted.

“If that’s the case, I understand that this is a content issue but that seems to be another instance of someone on campus speaking peacefully and respectfully about an issue that matters to them, as the professor did,” Majeed said.

“I see that as protected speech and something that the University should not be restricting.”

university@dailytarheel.com



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