Ruffin Jr., Battle Names Remain for Now

A committee considering names to remove from campus buildings because of their ties to white supremacy, the Confederacy and slavery did not reach agreement at two January meetings to recommend additional removals.

The Chancellor’s Committee to Review History Commission Resolution deferred making a recommendation to remove the names of Thomas Ruffin Jr. (class of 1844) from a residence hall and Kemp Plummer Battle (class of 1849) from the building housing the department of African, African American and diaspora studies. The University’s Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward recommended to Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz in 2020 that Ruffin’s name be removed because he had strong ties to the Ku Klux Klan and violence in support of white supremacy. The commission also reported Battle and his family enslaved Black people.

Committee Chair Mike Smith ’78 (JD), dean of the UNC School of Government, said he struggled to place Ruffin in the same context, such as the extent of his influence, as other historical figures whose names have been removed from buildings. Committee member Michael Kennedy ’79 said he believed much of the information the panel received contained implied information about Ruffin rather than hard facts. Battle appeared to later change his positions and was also instrumental in helping the University grow in prominence, said committee member Cheryl Woods Giscombé ’09 (MSN), associate dean at the School of Nursing.

Those supporting removal at the meeting said the names impede the student experience and were a detriment to their ability to learn.

The review committee will draft a report detailing its discussion and decision-making process and use it to make a final decision about the remaining names on 10 buildings that the commission submitted to the chancellor for removal. The review committee submits names it deems appropriate for removal to Guskiewicz, who then submits the names to the Board of Trustees for consideration. In November, the board voted to remove and replace the names of Charles Brantley Aycock (class of 1880) and Julian Shakespeare Carr (class of 1866) from two buildings.

— Lea Hart

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