Last week, an unofficial Hurston Hall plaque was placed on the building now called Carolina Hall, formerly Saunders Hall. Before the Board of Trustees voted to rename the building in 2015, several student organizations pushed for the name Hurston Hall, after Zora Neale Hurston, a notable writer in the Harlem Renaissance who briefly attended UNC.
The board chose Carolina as opposed to Hurston in part because Hurston attended the University for a brief time and was not enrolled as a full-time student. While we on this board think this argument is semantics at best, we have some thoughts on how to proceed.
Carolina Hall is a poor name. It’s confusing, it shows the University will not consider student voices and it further illustrates that the BOT values bland, uninteresting names over highlighting the achievements of people of color who attended this University.
With the 16-year freeze on building renaming, we cannot expect the name to change; indeed, it seems unlikely that the BOT would change it. But we do think we have the power to change the name ourselves. We can simply start calling problematic buildings something new and change the collective memory of the University.
This happens regularly on our campus. The Rams Head Dining Hall building’s actual name is Chase Hall, yet few students know it by its proper name. Carolina Hall, too, can become just a sign obfuscated by collective memory and, quite literally, student voices talking about Hurston Hall.