“A lot of the work around University history — studying it, interpreting it, reinterpreting it — has been going on for a long time, and with students often leading the way,” commission member and University archivist Nicholas Graham said. “But it’s exciting to me that this new initiative is coming from the Chancellor’s office and I hope it’s an opportunity for the entire campus to engage with the history of the University in a way that we haven’t really done before.”
The group will focus on three main areas: archives, history, research and curation; curriculum development and teaching; and engagement, ethics and reckoning.
“I think we are at a time, not only at this University but also in this country and the world, where we need to address those questions and think about how we start to repair and bring justice, and what better place to do that than at a public institution that’s committed to those values,” co-chairperson Patricia Parker, a professor in the communications department, said.
A top priority of the Commission is fostering student and community engagement throughout its work, co-chairperson and Honors Carolina dean Jim Leloudis said.
“This is going to be a big, broad collaborative effort,” Leloudis said. “It is not going to be 15 people working in a room doing it all by themselves. A big part of our charge is about engaging and mobilizing the entire community in this work.”
The campuswide statement said commission members will work to strengthen the University’s relationships with underrepresented communities in various ways.
“Anytime we commit to these kind of deliberative and contemplative circles with the intent of following it with action it’s a good thing,” commission member Joseph Jordan, the director of the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History, said.
The Commission’s work will culminate with a symposium and a report that will include recommendations for building a stronger community.
“It’s not just enough to put a name on a building or put up a sign or teach a course," Leloudis said. "Ultimately, this is also about changing and transforming the culture of the campus and the institution, and that’s a great big goal but I think we are aiming for what a public university should be: one that is genuinely inclusive."