Unfortunately, the resolution is merely symbolic. The UNC Board of Trustees, who would lead the change, placed themselves under 16-year freeze for renaming buildings, after the University changed Saunders Hall to Carolina Hall.
The 16-year freeze was an attempt to delay the conversations surrounding UNC’s problematic history. In the BOT’s logic, by the end of the freeze, four generations of students will have passed through the University, leaving the contextualization of buildings, such as Saunders Hall, a relic of the past.
But they didn’t predict that Silent Sam would come to define the University. This propelled ties to controversial historical figures to the forefront of conversations surrounding the University.
There is little-to-no course of action the University can take without the BOT. But with the BOT’s handling of Silent Sam for the past two years, the Editorial Board has lost hope that they will act in the best interest of the University and lead the state’s flagship school progressively.
The 16-year freeze is ridiculous and never should have been passed. But there is something the University has the power to do in the meantime.
In October, the University changed the dedication of Kenan Memorial Stadium from William Rand Kenan Sr. (a leader of the Wilmington Massacre) to his son. Similarly, there is another Aycock the residence hall can be named after — William Brantley Aycock, a UNC chancellor from 1957 to 1964 and former professor at the UNC School of Law. He is most remembered for hiring Dean Smith, a UNC legend who also fought for integration.
Of course, the best situation is to take the name “Aycock” away from the residence hall entirely (Dean Smith Residence Hall certainly has a nice ring to it), but the Editorial Board has given up on the UNC administration taking substantial action on campus.
The University also needs to contextualize Charles Brantley Aycock’s racist history. It’s the University’s responsibility to acknowledge all parts of its history – not just the one it chooses to show.
Conversations about the University’s racist past will not go away, no matter how hard the administration tries. It didn’t go away with the 16-year freeze. It didn’t go away with plans to build a museum for Silent Sam in 2022, once current students graduate. It didn’t go away with major announcements during final exams, or with pedestal removals in the middle of the night.
And in 12 years, once the the freeze has lifted, the students, faculty and the paper will still be here, holding the administration accountable for proper contextualization and recognition of the University’s tainted past.