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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: The University has dragged its feet when it comes to building renaming

Hamilton Hall one of the many buildings swept into the building-naming controversy, is pictured on Nov. 21, 2022.

Concerns over problematic building namesakes are not new. The University has simply failed to take these concerns seriously, resulting in an inaction that spits in the face of students and activists that have vehemently fought for a more inclusive campus.

Asking for buildings to not be named after racists, Confederates and slave owners is not an outlandish or demanding request. It’s an urgent critique of UNC’s long and entangled history, and it's an important conversation about how we go about preserving historical memory in a public space. 

Instead of listening to these concerns, the University has allowed them to get lost in a whirlwind of bureaucracy: from committees, to the Board of Trustees, to the chancellor’s desk. 

In April of 2021, the University Commission on History, Race, and a Way Forward submitted its recommendations for renaming 10 campus buildings whose namesakes, according to the commission, worked to advance white supremacy with their injustices.

The Editorial Board wholeheartedly agrees with the Commission's conclusions. While we understand that those opposed may present concerns over historical remembrance on our campus, we feel that naming buildings after problematic individuals is not a means of remembering but of revering.

A University spokesperson said the chancellor is “individually and thoroughly” reviewing the proposed name changes.

While we appreciate your thoroughness, chancellor, it’s well past time to remove the names of bigots from our lecture halls and dormitories. The decision to remove them should be a no-brainer: we can remember the history of certain individuals without engraving their names on campus facilities. 

As for the decision on what to rename buildings to – recommendations have been presented to the University over the years. “Pauli Murray Hall,” for instance, is slated to replace Hamilton Hall and revere the late civil rights activist. 

With open ears, the University could do more to address the needs and desires of the community. We understand that building renaming is a lengthy process that requires careful discussion, listening and consideration.

It’s been over seven years since former Chancellor Carol Folt formed a task force to change Saunders Hall to Carolina Hall. It’s been over two years since Guskiewicz charged the Commission on History, Race, and a Way Forward with exploring the University's history and making recommendations on how to reckon with it. 

Since then, four buildings have been completely or partially renamed: The Carr Building is now the Henry Owl Building, Aycock Residence Hall is now McClinton Residence Hall, Ruffin Residence Hall is now Ruffin Jr. Residence Hall and Daniels Building is now the Student Stores Building.

Only four buildings have seen name changes, while 10 sit on the docket in what seems like an indefinite cycle of meetings, commissions and votes. (It’s worth noting that one of the 10 is the aforementioned Ruffin Jr. Residence Hall.)

The University has acted too slow for too long. The time to make these necessary changes is now.


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