Written by Susan Hudson, The Well
The University’s Board of Trustees approved the removal of four names from campus buildings at a special meeting Wednesday.
The board voted 11-2 on four separate motions to remove the names Charles Brantley Aycock, Julian Shakespeare Carr, Josephus Daniels and Thomas Ruffin Sr. from buildings on campus. The meeting was livestreamed for the public on YouTube. With this vote, the board has approved five name changes, including renaming Saunders Hall to Carolina Hall in 2015.
The University Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward recommended earlier this month that the names of Charles Brantley Aycock (Aycock Residence Hall), Julian Shakespeare Carr (Carr Building), Josephus Daniels (Daniels Building), Thomas Ruffin and Thomas Ruffin Jr. (Ruffin Residence Hall) be removed due to the individuals’ racist views and actions. Trustees asked for more research into Thomas Ruffin Jr.’s legacy before voting on the removal of his name.
“We are serious about reckoning with our history as a university,” Chair Richard Stevens said. “We have much work to do still, as a board and as a University community, to promote a deeper understanding of our history and to rectify the wrongs of racism.”
After the vote, the board approved the interim names for the buildings proposed by Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz. Effective immediately:
- Aycock will be called “Residence Hall One in Lower Quad.”
- Ruffin Residence Hall, which was co-named for Thomas Ruffin Jr., will still be known as Ruffin for the time being. Signage will be changed to remove the elder Ruffin.
- Carr will be called “Student Affairs building” to reflect the nature of the majority of the administrative work that takes place there.
- Daniels will be called “UNC Student Stores.”
Guskiewicz authorized Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Services Anna Wu to begin making the changes to the buildings immediately. Crews began work Wednesday afternoon, removing Carr’s name from the Student Affairs building. Other name removals and signage changes are expected to continue this week.
“If we kept these names on our buildings, I believe we jeopardize our integrity and impede our mission of teaching, research and service to all North Carolinians,” Guskiewicz said. “Continuing to honor these men is antithetical to our work in building a diverse and inclusive community.”
In introducing the motion to remove the names, trustee Gene Davis said, “If you had told me a year ago that I would be supporting changing the names of buildings on our campus, I probably would have told you that I believe the right thing to do was to contextualize those names … but not remove those names from the buildings. That is not where I am today.”
Davis said he supported removing the names “not with a view toward erasing history, but rather with a view toward the arc of the moral universe bending a bit more toward justice.”
The decision to remove these four names comes on the heels of the board overturning a moratorium on building name changes in June and approving a new procedure for removing names earlier this month.
Before the vote to remove the names, trustee John Preyer proposed that, rather than remove their names from campus buildings, the University host a “forgiveness day” for the individuals and their descendants. The motion was tabled.
“People can forgive, and I hope they can, but that’s not what this is about, in my opinion,” said trustee Ralph Meekins.
Under the new name removal procedure, a committee appointed by Guskiewicz reviews written requests for the removal of a name, investigates the claims and provides a written report of their recommendation. Vice Chancellor for Development David Routh led the review committee that met earlier this month and voted that the names of Aycock, Carr, Daniels, Thomas Ruffin and Thomas Ruffin Jr. be removed, as recommended by the University Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward.
Typically, buildings are named using guidelines from the University’s Policy on Naming Buildings and Units, but the chancellor and trustees may establish a different process for renaming buildings.
“The current names announced today are only temporary,” Guskiewicz said. “We will need to move forward thoughtfully and deliberatively as we consider what names should be on these buildings. This will take some time.”