More than 30 names of white supremacists and slaveholders mark the landscape of UNC, from residence halls to academic buildings to the football stadium, according to the University Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward.
These namings occurred between the late 1790s and the late 1960s — less than two decades after Black students were legally allowed to attend the University.
Over the past five years, however, the University has started taking action to address the legacies of those for which these buildings have been named. On July 16, the Board of Trustees created a formal name removal policy.
The process to remove these names involves a formal name removal request, thorough evaluation from the commission, review from a chancellor-appointed committee and, lastly, deliberation among the Board of Trustees.
“It’s time-consuming work, and it’s meticulous work,” Patricia Parker, a chairperson of the Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward, said about conducting research into the University’s past.
Parker and her fellow chairperson, James Leloudis, are leading the three-year charge on learning, teaching and researching the University’s history with race. The commission provides recommendations to the chancellor on how the community can reckon with its past.
Its work came to fruition on July 29 when the Board of Trustees voted to remove four names — Charles Aycock, Julian Carr, Josephus Daniels and Thomas Ruffin Sr. — from campus buildings at the initial request and recommendation of the commission.
However, before those names reached the Board of Trustees, they were reviewed by the Chancellor’s ad-hoc committee — a key step in the name removal policy.
“That group looked at the research [of the Commission] against the policy and made a consensus recommendation back to the Chancellor that all four of those names were not names that are part of our aspiration as an institution, didn’t reinforce the values that we have today, and should come off those buildings,” David Routh, vice chancellor for development and chairperson of the 13-member ad-hoc committee, said.
The committee, which is formed anew by the Chancellor with each name removal request, voted unanimously in mid-July to recommend the removal to the Chancellor.
After evaluating the Committee’s recommendation, the Chancellor requested that the Board of Trustees discuss and vote on the removal of the four names. Ultimately, on July 29, the names were removed.
“The names we place on buildings and spaces on this campus, or public spaces of any sort out beyond campus, they reflect the values that we embrace in our own time and that we want to hold up for celebration and emulation," Leloudis said.
While the original names of these buildings have been removed, they host interim names, such as “Residence Hall One in Lower Quad” and “Student Affairs building," and have yet to be renamed.
As of now, there is no procedure or policy to rename buildings at UNC. The authority and responsibility to create such a process lies with the chancellor and Board of Trustees, Routh said.
In May 2015, the Board of Trustees, under the administration of former Chancellor Carol Folt, replaced Saunders Hall, a building named after a chief organizer of the Ku Klux Klan, by resolution to call it Carolina Hall. At the same meeting, the Board enacted a 16-year moratorium on renaming any campus buildings or landmarks.
The ban on renaming buildings was lifted by the current Board of Trustees in June 2020, after a resurgence of media attention led by UNC alumnus Rashaad Galloway.
Galloway created a petition to repeal the moratorium, as well as to rename more than 40 buildings named after slaveholders and white supremacists.
One of the names offered on his petition as a replacement is Zora Neale Hurston, author and unofficial student at UNC before its integration. Activists advocated for her name to replace that of Saunders Hall in 2015.
"It was a slap in the face," Galloway said of the Board’s decision to name the building Carolina Hall instead of Hurston Hall.
“We have to deal with white supremacy and racism regardless of if we’re dealing with it from an individual or from walking into a building and seeing the person’s name on it,” Galloway said.
The importance of removing and replacing these names remains in the UNC community — Galloway's petition has more than 13,000 signatures to date.
While the Board of Trustees has yet to publicly release a plan for renaming buildings, Routh said the issue is under review by the Chancellor and Board of Trustees.
“We may all see something relatively soon about a step forward on the process around renaming,” Routh said.
Galloway said he hopes that people of all races, genders and frames of thinking will be included in the renaming process.
“How can we truly be a diverse university when our leadership is not diverse?" Galloway said.
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