The Chancellor’s Committee to Review History Commission Resolution unanimously agreed to recommend the building name removal of Avery Residence Hall and Bingham Hall.
In April, the Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward submitted a request, that was later updated in June, calling for the removal of 10 building names from campus. Following this request, a committee appointed by the chancellor reviewed the names being considered.
This committee reviewed the request using the Board of Trustees policy for the consideration of the removal of names on University buildings and public spaces as reference, which was approved by the BOT in June.
The committee discussed renaming requests for three of 10 buildings at their Oct. 26 and Oct. 27 meetings. Dean of the UNC School of Government Mike Smith moderated both discussions.
Avery Residence Hall
- The committee discussed the dossier for William Waightstill Avery, who is the current namesake of Avery Residence Hall. Avery was a Confederate state senator and lawyer from Burke County who defended slavery and advocated for secession. Avery, from one of the wealthiest families in western North Carolina, also enslaved children, women and men, according to the recommendation letter from the Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward.
- William Keyes, a former member of the BOT, opened the discussion. Keyes questioned whether Avery violated United States law, citing a murder that he was ultimately acquitted for because of insanity.
- Keyes referenced the first principle for evaluating a written request for removal in the BOT policy, which considers whether an individual violated U.S. law during or prior to the naming recognition.
- Mary-Rose Papandrea, a professor at the UNC School of Law, said that Avery's role in promoting slavery is a more compelling reason for name removal than focusing on his trial for murder.
- BOT member Rob Bryan said he believes it is important to consider the remediation of an individual’s wrongdoings throughout their life, something the committee had previously discussed. He said he didn't see evidence of that in Avery's case.
- “Mr. Avery died fighting for the Confederacy,"Maria Estorino, associate University librarian for Special Collections and director of Wilson Library, said. "I think that speaks very loudly to what his views were in his life. And I mean, in this case, he's not going to have that opportunity to rehabilitate, you know, his image and values.”
The group then discussed the fourth point in the policy process, regarding a namesake's ability to jeopardize the integrity of the University.
“I think, in a way, the question becomes, if it were up to us today, would we honor that person?” Keyes said.
The committee said that they agree to the removal of Avery's name.