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Monday January 24th

Chancellor's committee recommends the name removal of Avery Residence Hall, Bingham Hall

<p>Bingham Hall sits on the edge of the Quad on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020.</p>
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Bingham Hall sits on the edge of the Quad on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020.

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.

Bingham Hall

  • In the committee’s second meeting on Oct. 27, it recommended the removal of Robert Hall Bingham’s namesake from Bingham Hall, and discussed the dossier for Kemp Plummer Battle. Bingham was a white supremacist and member of the Ku Klux Klan in Orange County. He was a Civil War veteran and an educator whose family founded Hillsborough's Bingham School. 
  • First, chairperson of the Campaign for Carolina's Diversity Strategy Campaign Committee Michael Kennedy noted Bingham’s history of violence against Black people and participation in the Ku Klux Klan. 
    • “He was involved in a lot of violence that was directed toward Black people," Kennedy said. "So I think that would sort of meet that threshold, but it goes beyond that. Not only was he involved in violence, but he was educating and organizing people as members of the Klan.”
    • Dean of the Gillings School of Global Public Health Barbara Rimer noted his role in education, as a steward of the Bingham School. “He taught generations of white men to follow that creed and, and probably did a great deal of harm, social harm as a result of that," Rimer said. "So the scale of what he did, I think, is noteworthy.” 
  • The committee agreed to the removal of Bingham's namesake. 
  • For the rest of the meeting, the committee discussed Kemp Plummer Battle, a former trustee and the president of the University from 1876 to 1891. Battle, who enslaved men, women and children and was a secessionist, used his positions of power to "sustain and perpetuate systems of racial oppression – first, slavery, and then the regime of Jim Crow," according to a report by the Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward. Battle's family was one of the largest slaveholding families in the state. He also supported the removal of the Cherokee Nation and secured land grants that took land from Indigenous nations to fund UNC.
  • “This is a much better known name and person than Avery or Bingham that we have discussed so far” Estorino said. “He wrote a history, a still very much referenced to history of the University.”
  • Estorino referenced Battle's history as a white supremacist, including his role in Reconstruction in the South and the secessionist movement.
  • Kate Brandt, a graduate student in the department of geography, said that she would also like to discuss Battle's negative impact on the Indigenous community in the committees' next meeting. 
  • The committee agreed that they need to request more information from the Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward before voting on a recommendation for Battle. 

What's next?

The committee has not yet scheduled another meeting to discuss the remaining eight buildings. The committee's recommendations will be sent to Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz after the subsequent meetings, Smith said.

@salvatierralia 

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