Saunders Hall: Officially, More to Come in March

Lowry Caudill ’79, chair of UNC’s trustees, said members of the board had spent the summer and fall researching how best to handle the issue of renaming, after hearing demands from students last May. In early February, Chancellor Carol L. Folt remained noncommittal on whether Saunders Hall should be renamed. She said the board would discuss its findings at its March meeting.

Just prior to the Jan. 30 rally, Folt issued a statement to the campus community that read: “I have spoken to many student groups across campus and listened to our faculty, staff and alumni who have expressed their different perspectives on the issue surrounding Saunders Hall. A part of Carolina’s history is inextricably linked with difficult issues of race and class, and how we address those issues today, while acknowledging our past, is important.”

Prior to any decision the trustees might make, she said, “we will create and support opportunities for respectful dialogue, and we will work even harder to help our community demonstrate our commitment to Carolina’s core values of inclusion and respect.”

Caudill also issued a statement: “Like most American universities founded in the early years of our nation, Carolina has a rich and complex history and has memorialized contributors by placing their names on buildings, grounds, classrooms, monuments and in many other ways. Those honored were a reflection of leaders during their times. With the benefit of time and reflection, we realize that some of those previously honored present concerns today. Our challenge is to be responsive to the concerns expressed by our students, faculty and alumni without imposing today’s social norms on the past and ignoring our history, either good or bad.

“This complex issue extends well beyond Saunders Hall, and our board takes this responsibility very seriously. We have chosen to find a comprehensive solution reflecting the larger context of how we should acknowledge more fully the people for whom many historic buildings and monuments are named. This is not easy and takes time to fully reconcile our past with what we believe is in our best interests going forward.”

Just before the Jan. 30 rally, the University released a portion of its policy on building naming that reads: “If the benefactor’s or honoree’s reputation changes substantially so that the continued use of that name may compromise the public trust, dishonor the University’s standards, or otherwise be contrary to the best interests of the University, the naming may be revoked. However, caution must be taken when, with the passage of time, the standards and achievements deemed to justify a naming action may change and observers of a later age may deem those who conferred a naming honor at an earlier age to have erred. Namings should not be altered simply because later observers would have made different judgments.”

— David E. Brown ’75

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