Last week, The Daily Tar Heel ran a piece about Kenan Memorial Stadium, and how its namesake, William Rand Kenan Sr., was a major figure in the 1898 Wilmington Massacre that resulted in the murder of up to 60 African Americans. Only a few days later, UNC announced that the stadium would be rededicated to Kenan’s son, William Rand Kenan Jr.
Kenan Jr. donated much of his fortune to the University and gave an especially large donation to be put towards the construction of a football stadium, with the caveat that it be named in memorial of his parents.
This is just the latest controversy regarding a building name or memorial on campus, and the first that has been resolved in such a manner that has been a legitimate example of compromise. The University has stumbled upon an approach to the more divisive elements of our campus history that has the potential to work, without angering both sides of the debate.
Buildings named after donors with unsavory pasts is not an issue that just UNC is dealing with. Many universities around the country were founded in an era where racist and sexist attitudes were far more prevalent, and many of those schools’ founders and most important donors were very much products of their days. But in many of these cases, there’s an easy out for the universities as the families of such individuals often continue their support for the schools for many generations. Buildings named after persons who held unacceptable views can easily be rededicated to relatives who didn’t share their ideas, or even for the entire family, keeping the name the same while ensuring that the University doesn’t honor individuals who stood opposed to the ideals UNC holds dear and still honoring those who have done so much for our school.
The administration made the right move in regards to Kenan Memorial Stadium, but there are still more opportunities around campus for them to do the same.