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UNC Board of Trustees votes to rename campus buildings, tables a "forgiveness" proposal

Carr Building Rename

The UNC Board of Trustees voted to remove the names of Charles Aycock, Josephus Daniels, Julian Carr and Thomas Ruffin Sr. from UNC campus buildings because of their ties to white supremacy in North Carolina.

The Board voted 11-2 to remove each name during its meeting on Wednesday, with Trustees John Preyer and Allie Ray McCullen voting against.

Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz presented the Board with his recommendation to remove the names Wednesday after forming a committee to review the Commission on History, Race and A Way Forward's unanimous resolution recommending the removal of these four names from campus buildings earlier this month. 

“If we kept these names on our buildings, I believe we jeopardize our integrity and impede our mission of teaching, research and service to all North Carolinians,” he said. “Continuing to honor these men is antithetical toward our work in building a diverse and inclusive community.”

Here's what the buildings will be called in the interim:

  • The building formerly named the Josephus Daniels Student Stores will be called the Student Stores Building.
  • The name for the Carr Building will be the Student Affairs Building. Wednesday, new signage was put up reflecting the name change. 
  • Aycock Residence Hall will be called Residence Hall One.
  • Ruffin Residence Hall will keep its name, after Thomas Ruffin Jr., but will remove its ties to Thomas Ruffin Sr. The Board voted to keep the name of the junior Ruffin after several Trustees said they felt not enough evidence was provided to justify the removal of Ruffin Jr.’s name.

The Commission on History, Race and A Way Forward resolved that Ruffin Residence Hall should remove ties to both Thomas Ruffin Sr., one of the largest slaveholders in North Carolina, and Thomas Ruffin Jr., a Confederate officer, lawyer and legislator. However, the resolution said Ruffin Jr. "left no distinctive mark on jurisprudence."

Aycock and Daniels were prominent instigators of the 1898 Wilmington Massacre, a white supremacy campaign led by the Democratic Party, where a white mob killed at least 60 Black individuals, destroyed Black businesses and led a violent overthrow of the local government, a Fusion of Black and white politicians.  

Carr was a leader of the United Confederate Veterans in North Carolina. He gave a speech at the 1913 dedication to Silent Sam in which he proudly recounted whipping a Black woman near to the University. 

A forgiveness proposal 

Instead of removing the names, Trustee Preyer made a motion to formally forgive the four men and create a day of forgiveness the University would celebrate annually.

“Instead of judging these alumni, I think we should do something more meaningful and more significant, and we should forgive them,” Preyer said. “And, in return, the University can ask for forgiveness from their families for the embarrassment that this has caused them, as most of the family members had nothing to do with the actions of their ancestors, but nonetheless the family members have been subjected to pain and embarrassment.”

Trustee Gene Davis made a motion to table Preyer’s motion, which passed with an 11-2 vote. 

Davis then motioned to remove the names of the four men from campus buildings. 

“To me, this is a decision born out of my desire for reconciliation and healing as a University, as a community, as a state and nation,” Davis said. “It is born out of this moment in time when the arc of the moral universe is importantly bending in a meaningful way towards justice.”

Undergraduate Senator Collyn Smith, a rising junior, said he is glad some changes are being made but was disappointed that Ruffin Residence Hall will still be named after Ruffin Jr. 

“I don’t want these to be like a sticker for advocacy, that the Board of Trustees is patting themselves on the back for something they should have done a while ago,” he said.

Smith said he was shocked by Preyer’s motion to formally forgive the men instead of removing their names from buildings.

He said forgiving the men would add to the erasure of the histories and struggles of Black and Indigenous people of color.

“The idea that we would recognize and appreciate and forgive these people is beyond embarrassing to me,” he said. “It looked like it was some kind of parody tweet to me when I saw it.”

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More work to be done 

UNC graduate Dorothy Colón said while the vote is a step towards change, there are still many other buildings that should be renamed.

After the BOT lifted its moratorium on renaming buildings in June, she compiled a list of potential new names for buildings, using Instagram and Twitter to collect ideas from members of the UNC community.

“After Trustee McCullen said that there would be a ton of names that would need changing, I was like ‘Ok, well, let me help you out, do your job and send you a whole bunch of names,’” she said. 

Some potential names Colón suggested in the list are Julius Chambers Hall, after the UNC graduate and lifetime civil rights advocate, and Henry Owl Hall, honoring the first Native American student to enroll at UNC.

Colón said she has been using social media to make the University aware of her list, tagging Guskiewicz and several news organizations in her posts.

She said that in creating the list, she learned about Black people and people of color that made major contributions to UNC.

“These are people that I should have been taught about in my time at Carolina,” she said. “While I am glad that this was a learning opportunity, it also speaks to how UNC has failed to acknowledge those that paved the way for future students. UNC must improve on publicly acknowledging and honoring Black and POC activists of the past, present and future.”