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Campus buildings recommended renaming still awaiting chancellor and BOT approval

university-residence-hall-renaming-forum

Organizers of the event answers questions at the residence hall renaming forum in Chapman Hall, Wednesday, Mar. 1, 2023.

The University Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward — a group formally charged by Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz to provide recommendations on the potential renaming of campus buildings — delivered a report to the chancellor over five months ago. Although the University has recently renamed four campus buildings, the Commission's recommendations for the renaming of 10 additional buildings remain unmet. 

The Commission was formally charged by the chancellor in spring 2020. That summer, the UNC Board of Trustees followed Commission recommendations by voting to overturn a moratorium on renaming as well as strip the namesakes of four campus buildings named after white supremacists. 

In April 2021, the Commission recommended removing an additional 10 white supremacist namesakes from campus buildings, which was not met as promptly as the previous four. 

Later that year, Guskiewicz created a new body called the Chancellor’s Committee to Review History and Race Commission Resolution. The Committee was charged with reviewing the Commission’s findings, and it met from Oct. 2021 to Oct. 2022. Now, any action on building renaming must be recommended to the BOT by Guskiewicz directly.

On March 6, a University spokesperson provided a statement from Guskiewicz that is identical to a statement provided to The Daily Tar Heel on Nov. 20, saying that the chancellor is “confident that new names will represent the values of (UNC's) campus and quickly become part of the fabric of (the) community.”

According to statements made on both Nov. 20 and March 6, Guskiewicz “is in the process of reviewing and considering each recommendation individually and thoroughly.”

The 10 buildings included in the most recent commission recommendations are named for people the Commission described as having deliberately chosen actions “terrorizing, exploiting, disenfranchising, and impoverishing their fellow citizens on the basis of color."  The list includes five academic and administrative buildings and five residence halls.

Avery Residence Hall, for example, is named for William Waightstill Avery, a former BOT member. According to the Commission’s spring 2021 report, Avery was a slave owner who advocated a pro-slavery position at the 1860 Democratic Convention in Charleston, S.C. The report said that he “campaigned relentlessly” for North Carolina to secede after President Abraham Lincoln’s election and served as a delegate to the Confederate Provisional Congress.

The Residence Hall Association hosted a forum last week with the co-chairpersons of the Commission. They did not have new information on the renaming process for the 10 buildings, but emphasized their previous renaming recommendations.

“You can't say that these were just men of the times," Patricia Parker, co-chairperson of the Commission, said at the forum. "They were actively promoting a particular ideology that led to violence against Black people in particular and also what we espouse as our democracy."

James Leloudis, co-chairperson of the Commission, said at the forum that the original choosing of some of those 10 names focused on legitimizing history for a regime of "racial subjugation and racial terror.”

Panelists at the forum said they did not want to predict what Guskiewicz and the BOT will decide for the renamings. 

“If they can take all 10 names into consideration, that would be the best outcome,” said Alexandra Love, a student on the Residence Hall Renaming Committee — which researches building renaming and advocates for a more inclusive UNC.

Recordings of the final meetings of the Chancellor's Committee suggest there was a consensus on recommending the renaming of eight of the buildings, with more deliberation over Battle Hall and Thomas Ruffin Jr. Residence Hall. 

As a former BOT member and later president of UNC, Kemp Plummer Battle led the effort to re-open the University after the Civil War and restructured it as a research university. He, according to the Commission's report, also owned slaves and signed the state’s ordinance of secession.

Tanner Stutts is a student who serves on the Residence Hall Renaming Committee. He lives in Morrison Residence Hall, named for the former N.C. governor who served from 1921-1925. Morrison helped lead the 1898 and 1900 campaigns in which white supremacists took power from the biracial opposition across the state. 

“That was a little disconcerting, living in a building with that connection,” Stutts said.

Although there are no identified updates on when the buildings will be renamed in the future, the University said they are dedicated to continuing the renaming process. 

“Building renaming and name removal are important tasks that help our campus reckon with our past and move forward into the future,” Guskiewicz said in the statements provided in November and March.

@satchelwalton

university@dailytarheel.com

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