“Even in frustration and in exhaustion, people were still sharing things that we could do, and that’s wonderful,” she said.
The town hall meeting follows a year of escalating racial concerns both at UNC and nationally.
Chapel Hill Shootings
After three young Muslims were killed in Chapel Hill on Feb. 10, many students reported feeling unsafe on campus.
Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were killed by Craig Hicks, of Chapel Hill. Hicks is facing the death penalty.
In April, after David Horowitz, a conservative writer, spoke out campus against groups like the Muslim Students’ Association and Students forPeace in Palestine, connecting them to terrorist organizations, students took to twitter to protest under #NotSafeUNC.
After continued student protests going back to the 1970s, the Board of Trustees renamed Saunders Hall in a 10-3 vote on May 28, 2015 — but activists are still unsatisfied.
The Real Silent Sam Coalition had rallied around the name Hurston Hall after Zora Neale Hurston, but the name was not mentioned in the May board meeting. When asked, board member Alston Gardner said there wasn’t enough evidence to verify Hurston’s connection to UNC.
“All halls here are Carolina Halls,” said senior Janell Smith. “It’s so generic and easy. Even if they did the research and still found that Zora Neale Hurston didn’t have enough of a connection to UNC, they couldn’t find one black person they wanted to honor?”
In September, activists held an opening ceremony for Hurston Hall regardless.
“We will not accept the school’s renaming of this building,” sophmore Mitch Xia said. “Carolina Hall is a cop out. Carolina Hall was a way of appeasing the mass, and appeasing correctness and making themselves feel better without actually doing shit.”
In the May meeting, three resolutions were passed. The second renamed the building, the third put a 16-year freeze on renaming campus landmarks or buildings, and the first was to create historical markers for McCorkle Place — where Silent Sam and the Unsung Founders memorials stand — and Saunders Hall, to be approved no later than the November 2015 meeting.
On July 5, Silent Sam was spray-painted with “Black Lives Matter,” “KKK” and “murderer.” On Aug. 8, “Who is Sandra Bland?” was spray-painted on the Confederate memorial, referring to Sandra Bland, who died in police custody in Texas in July.
Two cameras facing Silent Sam were installed July 10 and 17 following the first modification. Department of Public Safety spokesperson Randy Young confirmed the cost of the cameras and installation was $3,600.
On Sept. 2, Chancellor Carol Folt announced the creation of a history task force to contextualize UNC history, concentrating first on Carolina Hall and McCorkle Place. She named three co-charis — Winston Crisp, vice chancellor for student affairs, history professor Jim Leloudis and Amy Locklear Hertel, director of the American Indian Center.
At the Board of Trustees Sept. 18 meeting, the co-chairs updated the board with progress. The co-chairs are still the only official members along with project manager Cecelia Moore and UNC spokesperson Rick White.
Leloudis said the plaque contextualizing Carolina Hall’s history will be installed Nov. 23.
Following the Aug. 8 modification to Silent Sam, a vigil was held to remember transgender and cisgender black women who were killed by police or died in custody recently.
“If anyone asks why we are here, we are here to heal so later we can act,” senior June Beshea, who organized the event, said at the beginning of the vigil. “We are here to say her name because so many have not.”
University of Missouri
In an email on Nov. 12, 2015, UNC announced the appointment of Rumay Alexander, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs in the School of Nursing, as assistant to the chancellor to start Jan. 1 in response to events at the Universityof Missouri and Yale University.
“Like all of you, we have been deeply moved by what has been another historic week on college campuses across the nation,” the email said. “Once again, our country is witnessing how racial tensions and collective responses to those tensions drive change and spark calls for immediate action.”
UNC students held a protest Nov. 13, to show support for students of color, especially queer black women, at the University of Missouri. At the rally, Jeremy McKellar, UNC’s Black Student Movement president, said the problem was not confined to Missouri.
“If you think for a second that their problem is not our problem, then you my friend, are asleep to the world around you,” Mckellar said.
Folt and other administrators were in attendance at the rally as many students protested the administration’s tendency to promote dialogue rather than action.
“I’m tired of the administrative actions being centered around the premise of protecting white feelings,” said Jaelyn Coates, chairperson of the Carolina Union Board of Directors. “As an institution, I’d like to think that we’re better than the inaction that we’ve seen.”