It’s been almost a year since the Board of Trustees voted to remove the names of four buildings with racist ties — and the University is one step closer to making that happen.
In a campus message on March 26, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz invited the campus community to submit potential names for Aycock Residence Hall, the Carr Building and the Daniels Building.
Last summer, the Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward recommended that these four buildings be renamed because they were named after slaveholders or people with connections to white supremacy.
Charles Aycock and Josephus Daniels were leaders and contributors to white supremacy campaigns, including the 1898 Wilmington Massacre. Julian Carr was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and spoke at the dedication of Silent Sam about whipping a Black woman.
In the recent campus message, Guskiewicz provided a list of over 20 names already up for consideration in the honorific naming registry and encouraged community members to provide additional names.
“There is a high bar required for naming a building on our campus,” he said in the message. “The committee will give more weight to honorees who reflect the principles outlined below:
- Represent the values that define our University: excellence and an unwavering commitment to teaching, research and public service.
- Have traditionally been underrepresented on our landscape.
- Have a demonstrated positive impact on our campus and in our community.”
Guskiewicz also said community members are encouraged to submit names or words that reflect UNC and its values — citing Carolina Hall as an example.
The call for submissions was open for two weeks and closed on April 9, but changes won’t happen immediately. First there is a vetting process for proposed names.
“The committee will receive all submitted names and conduct an initial vetting process to narrow a list of possible options to six names for consideration,” Guskiewicz said in the campus message. “I will consider those names for submission to our Board of Trustees for final approval.”
Guskiewicz's goal is for the buildings to be renamed by the time students return to campus in August and said he is excited about the changes.
“This is an exciting time for our University as we celebrate and remember the people who have pushed our University forward by serving its people and our mission. In doing so, we are taking concrete steps to build our community together,” he said. “I am confident that we will have plenty of worthy honorees who have been instrumental in our shared history.”
Some UNC students share Guskiewicz’s excitement. Kayla Dang, a junior human development and family studies major, said she is glad the University has taken steps to change the names.
“It’s something a lot of people have wanted for a long time, and I think it's a step in the right direction,” Dang said.
But Dang said she is worried that some students wouldn’t take this opportunity seriously.
“I couldn’t help but wonder if there are people out there who put in silly prank names,” she said. “I wouldn’t want the University to take away the option to submit names, or even decide to not change them just because some students didn’t take this seriously.”
Anusha Dubey, a junior health policy and management major and Residence Hall Association executive board member, said she is excited that students are allowed to get involved in renaming — but wishes students were involved at all levels in the process.
“The actual vetting of the names is more under control of the higher-ups,” she said. “And so I think that there could be more student involvement at the higher levels too, but overall I'm happy that we're taking this step forward.”
During her time with the Residence Hall Association, Dubey said she and her fellow executive board members have had a working relationship with the Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward since this spring to help bring more attention to these issues.
“The commission has been researching the histories of buildings on campus and proposing names to be removed, and RHA tries to get students informed and involved," she said.
Dubey said although this is a step forward, the University has a long way before systemic racism is dismantled on campus.
“Going forward, we need to make sure that future building names uplift marginalized voices,” she said. “We need to not only move forward past our racist roots but also uplift the voices that have been historically put down.”
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