Members of the Faculty Executive Committee gathered Monday afternoon to discuss the Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward, formally announced by Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz last week.
Co-chairpersons Patricia Parker and Jim Leloudis attended the meeting to discuss the Commission's goals.
Parker and Leloudis emphasized the collaborative nature of the Commission and their dedication to focusing its efforts on not only teaching, but learning from the University’s history.
“We’re not taking this lightly," Parker, chairperson of the Department of Communication, said. “We’re not saying we’re saviors. We humbly, as faculty colleagues, bring our areas of expertise to a difficult issue.”
Parker noted that the University's decision to place the Silent Sam monument in the hands of The North Carolina Division Sons of Confederate Veterans Inc., along with a $2.5 million trust meant for the monument's care and preservation, had no impact on the creation the commission or the appointment of its members. She said Guskiewicz approached her with the idea in September or October 2018.
“Anytime there’s a morale issue, usually at the root of it is people feeling like they’re not being heard," Parker said.
With that in mind, Parker said the commission hopes to create a space for people to engage with and discuss issues like the Silent Sam settlement.
“What I hear from students a lot is, ‘Doesn’t (the controversy surrounding the Silent Sam monument) make you terribly embarrassed?’” Leloudis, a professor in the Department of History, said. “My answer to them is, 'Quite the opposite.' Looking at this institution historically, its best days have been when we’ve been willing to take a hard look at these problems and challenges and use them as an opportunity to step up.”
Cary Levine, a professor in the Department of Art and Art History, told Leloudis that he finds it embarrassing when the University fails to step up as Leloudis described.
Leloudis assured him it’s important to the commission to be “transparent, collaborative and engaged.”
Parker and Lelouidis' presentation on the Commission took up the majority of the Faculty Executive Committee's 90-minute meeting.
Lloyd Kramer, director of Carolina Public Humanities and a professor in the Department of History, said the commission's work will play an important part of the University's broader role as a public institution.
“The Chancellor likes to talk about how this is a University by the public and for the public,” Kramer said. “This is an issue that goes way beyond the University.”
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