The UNC Undergraduate Senate passed a resolution Tuesday to officially recommend the removal of white supremacist Charles Aycock’s name from Aycock Residence Hall. The resolution is a statement saying the UNC student body would like the residence hall to be renamed.
There was no debate, and all Undergraduate senators that were present voted to approve the resolution, but any official action toward removing the name would have to come from the UNC Board of Trustees.
Charles Aycock was the governor of North Carolina from 1901 until 1905 and was an outspoken white supremacist. The residence hall was built in 1924, 12 years after Aycock's death.
“He was also very outspoken about his belief that white people are superior to African Americans, which is the definition of white supremacy, and that should not be honored on this campus," said Undergraduate Senator Baxter Barrett.
According to the North Carolina History Project, Aycock endorsed segregated schooling and Black disenfranchisement, believing that white people were more qualified to rule.
Undergraduate Senator Tanner Henson introduced the resolution.
“If you go and listen to some of his quotations, it’s really quite terrible, and I didn’t think that was something we should allow to stand at Carolina, since we have prided ourselves in taking action,” Henson said.
UNC-Greensboro, Eastern Carolina University and Duke University have all removed Aycock’s name from places of prominence on their campus.
“It’s something that has been done by other universities in the UNC system,” Barrett said. “It’s been discussed here, but there’s been no action on it until this point.”
In 2016, the UNC-Greensboro Board of Trustees voted to rename a building that was formally called Aycock Auditorium. The building was given the interim name UNCG Auditorium, and a deadline has not been set for the approval of a new name. In 2016, ECU removed signage from Aycock Hall, which was later renamed to Legacy Hall. Duke renamed its Aycock Residence Hall to East Residence Hall in 2014.
“I really thought this was something we could do first. A lot of times we find ourselves responding to issues that were already brought up, and then it’s the Senate’s turn to put our stamp of approval on something after the fact," Henson said. "I thought this was something we could do now before other people do, and we could actually lead and be the forefront of this."
While the Undergraduate Senate will officially recommend renaming the residence hall, actually removing the name Aycock from the building is out of its control.
“It’s the Board of Trustees that has the power to actually do that,” Barrett said. “They did that for example, with what was Saunders Hall but is now Carolina Hall on campus. At the same time they also passed something that prevented any names from being changed on campus for 16 years.”
Carolina Hall was originally named Saunders Hall after William Laurence Saunders, who served in the Confederate Army and was a leader in the Ku Klux Klan. The BOT renamed the hall in May of 2015 “on grounds that their predecessors had made a grave error in celebrating Saunders as the head of a 'violent terrorist organization,'” according to a UNC website about the history of Carolina Hall.
After announcing the name Carolina Hall in May 2015, the BOT voted unanimously to freeze any renaming of campus buildings for 16 years, so is uncertain what, if any, changes the Undergraduate Senate’s resolution may cause.
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