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Black Students Give Folt List of Five Key Demands

A group of African-American students met with Chancellor Carol L. Folt Wednesday and handed her five demands — about 45 down from the list that was read at a town meeting on race relations two weeks ago.

The students, who say they do not always feel welcome on the campus and sometimes fear for their safety in a climate still tinged with racism, told The Daily Tar Heel that these were measures they expected could be put in place fairly quickly. The response of Folt and top University leaders was not immediately known.

They said the University should:

  • Hire more African-American faculty in each department;
  • Start a doctoral program in the department of African, African-American and diaspora studies;
  • Publish admission and graduation rate data on minority students on the home page of the UNC website;
  • Require all new students to take a “Black and Blue” tour (referring to a periodic tour the University offers to the public about UNC’s racial history); and
  • Revoke the 16-year moratorium on building name changes enacted by the UNC trustees in May as well as again change the name of the campus building now known as Carolina Hall (formerly named Saunders Hall) to honor author and activist Zora Neale Hurston.

A UNC spokesman described the meeting as “both positive and productive,” saying the students were “very thoughtful and passionate.”

Hours before the meeting, Folt sent a message to the campus community covering what she called “some initial steps” to make the campus more welcoming.

Folt said UNC would create and implement a series of opportunities for students, faculty and staff to learn more about how to understand and counter racism and other forms of bias; locate space for black students on campus that fosters social interaction and community-building; and look at ways to recruit and retain more faculty and staff of color.

“As an institution with a long and rich tradition of shared governance, Carolina thrives when all of us have a say in how we fulfill our promises as the nation’s first public university,” Folt wrote. “I am determined to chart a course where we can all work together to create and sustain the kind of community where all feel welcome, respected, and free to pursue their dreams and goals and become their best and truest selves.”

In a nearly full Memorial Hall on Nov. 19, a group calling themselves “a collective of students who are combating anti-blackness on this campus” grabbed the spotlight at a two-and-a-half-hour town hall meeting on race, calling for mandatory education on racial sensitivity for everyone who works, teaches or studies on the campus; a voice for students of color in the hiring of top-tier administrators; more aggressive hiring of faculty of color; the hiring of more mental health professionals at UNC with experience specific to the needs of minorities; and disarming and training of campus police in de-escalation techniques.

The group also demanded changes such as a moratorium on tuition increases until all students are graduating debt-free; the firing of the recently hired new president of the UNC System, Margaret Spellings; and an end to the use of the SAT, ACT and other standardized tests in admissions.

The meeting was called in response to escalating racial protests at universities across the country and after about 300 people gathered at a rally in front of South Building on Nov. 13 to hear the students’ grievances over what they called the hostile racial environment on the campus.

The chancellor’s message to the campus is available online.


 

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