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Chancellor's committee discusses renaming three UNC buildings


Bingham Hall sits on the edge of the Quad on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020.

The Chancellor’s Committee to Review History Commission Resolution met on Thursday to discuss the progress of its report regarding the removal of the campus building names Bingham Hall, Grimes Residence Hall and Graham Residence Hall.

This is part of a campus building renaming process which is reviewing 10 campus buildings with namesakes connected to white supremacists. The committee’s discussion is based on an April 2021 report by the Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward.

Committee Chairperson Mike Smith said the committee’s goal is to get the draft of its report to Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz by July 1 so that he has time to review it before the Board of Trustees meeting in late July, where it will be considered. 

What’s new?

  • The committee discussed the draft’s section about the removal of the building name Graham Residence Hall, which is named after John Washington Graham.
    • Graham, a UNC trustee, oversaw Confederate troops who participated in the massacre of fugitive slaves in the Battle of Plymouth.
    • “To me, the case against Graham, it’s the one case that almost made me physically ill,” Smith said. 
    • The committee agreed to take out the allegation that Graham committed perjury in an impeachment trial. 
    • Committee member Bobby Kunstman said he believed the committee should remove a part of the report describing Graham as a ‘distinguished’ lawyer and politician, which he said also weakens the case against Graham. 
    • All in attendance voted in favor of recommending the removal of Graham’s name from the building.
  • The committee then discussed the section of the report recommending the removal of the name Grimes Residence Hall.
    • This building is named after Bryan Grimes Jr., a UNC trustee who directed efforts to organize the Ku Klux Klan and enriched himself by exploiting Black labor.
    • The committee discussed whether or not to include that Grimes was involved in the domestic slave trade, but it ultimately decided to keep it in the report.
    • The committee decided to delete a part in the report about the "lost cause" ideology, which came about after the Civil War as a way for Confederates to celebrate white southern heroism, according to the University of Richmond Race and Racism Project.
    • “I don’t think it contributes much here,” committee member Maria Estorino said. “And frankly, it wades us into a conversation about the lost cause that I don’t think is relevant here.”
  • The committee then discussed the section of its report on Bingham Hall, which is named after Robert Hall Bingham.
    • Bingham, a member of the class of 1857, promoted a white supremacist ideology and taught white men to glorify racist violence as an organizing force in society.
    • Committee member and UNC trustee Ralph W. Meekins Sr. suggested that the committee delete sections of the draft where it acknowledged factors that it didn't consider in its decision, namely treason.
    • Smith said the opening section of the report clarified that the committee did not consider treason in evaluating the removal of any namesake.
    • "I think it’s really important (to remove the sections alleging Bingham's treason) because the Chancellor and Board of Trustees are going to have to read through lots and lots of pages of documents,” committee member Kate Brandt said.
  • Residence Hall Association President Elliana Alexander said the first draft of the Residence Hall Renaming Committee Appendix is completed.
    • Alexander said the committee also completed an interview project with residents living on campus to share their experiences and wanted to share those with the committee to review before it goes into the report.
    •  Meekins said one of his concerns was that members of the BOT will ask what the committee did to research and look for favorable evidence about the namesakes of the buildings.
    • Meekins said he thought the best option was to reach out to the History Department and ask for people willing to thoroughly search for these facts.

What’s next?

  • Smith said the committee will meet again on May 25 to review the sections of the report draft about Vance Hall, Morrison Residence Hall and Hamilton Hall.
  • The committee will later meet on May 31 to review Pettigrew Hall, Battle Hall and Thomas Ruffin, Jr. Hall.
  • Smith also said the committee has tentative plans to meet one or two times in June to finalize the report.