The annual Chancellor’s Awards Ceremony honored student achievements in academics, activities and leadership, as well as teaching and staff awards on Tuesday. Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz gave the awards and took photos with recipients as their names were called.
Award recipient senior Julia Pulawski used this time on the Student Union Great Hall stage to speak about an incident at a Silent Sam protest in September.
“Police on UNC’s campus assaulted me and put me in a chokehold during a protest for absolutely no reason,” Pulawksi said.
Pulawski was one of eight individuals who were arrested in September during a demonstration on McCorkle Place.She was found guilty on two counts of assault on a campus police officer.
Last month, Pulawski filed to dismiss these charges. The motion to dismiss accused Sgt. Svetlana Bostelman of lying during her testimony, which was used to convict Pulawski.
“Chancellor Guskiewicz cares more about protecting the police and white supremacists than protecting students like me,” Pulawksi said during the ceremony. “This is unacceptable. If you get a chance to talk to Chancellor Guskiewicz today, please tell him to fire Sgt. Bostelman, disband UNC police and resign immediately.”
Pulawski said she reached out to Guskiewicz about the incident.
“Chancellor Guskiewicz has ignored all of my emails asking him to talk about this incident,” Pulawksi said. “This administration has continually emboldened white supremacists to come to our campus.”
She also addressed the defacement of the Unsung Founders Memorial.
“After racists wrote an anti-Black hate speech and urinated on a memorial to the enslaved and free African Americans who built UNC, Chancellor Guskiewicz condemned the vandalism because it was lawless behavior,” Pulawski said. “We need to condemn it because it’s racist behavior.”
Pulawski received the Sterling A. Stoudemire Award for Excellence in Spanish at the ceremony and left promptly after her statement.
“I celebrate all the student achievements at UNC,” Pulawski said. “Especially being committed to anti-racist activism even when the administration represses us. I will walk out of the ceremony now.”
Award recipient Adie Ramirez did not take a photo with Guskiewicz. Ramirez, who was active in the Silent Sam protests, supported Pulawski’s statement.
“I’m in full support,” Ramirez said. “I did not take a picture for that reason because my award came much before Julia’s, and so I couldn’t just leave my mom in the crowd, but I did, out of respect for that cause, not take the picture and chose not to take that picture for that reason.”
In addition to award recipients and their families, UNC donors, award namesakes and their families were present at the ceremony.
“It’s a privilege to be celebrating the excellence and determination that are exemplified daily by each of our awardees, and we are also honored to be joined today by all the donors, family members and award namesakes who are here today,” Guskiewicz said. “You are such a vital part of what Carolina is about because you understand how important it is to recognize extraordinary success.”
Award recipient Eddy Fernandez said Pulawski’s statement in front of this particular audience was significant.
“I’m very glad that she did what she did and especially was able to say that in front of the donors because I feel like sometimes there’s this disconnect between student activism and donors and in general,” Fernandez said. “I’m just very glad that she did it.”
When asked about what students concerned with these issues on campus should do going forward, Ramirez said that they should “continue to protest against Silent Sam, white supremacy, and to continue to support student activists because a lot of times students of color feel unsafe on campus and a lot of the times we, as students of color, are the forefront of these campaigns.”
“And so, for me, it’s very much supporting the students, and ensuring that they’re also being taken care of and that they’re being uplifted by their community,” Ramirez said. “So, taking the time to really acknowledge the work that they’re doing, to me, is really important.”
Guskiewicz declined to comment on Pulawski’s statement.
"All of our award recipients today served as role models in our community and inspired those around them to push the boundary of possibility and dream big," Guskiewicz said. "Congratulations to all of you for your outstanding leadership in service to Carolina."
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