Will UNC-Chapel Hill rename building carrying KKK leader's name?
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students are campaigning for trustees to rename the campus' English building, Saunders Hall.
- The building's funder and namesake, William L. Saunders, was a Confederate colonel and former Ku Klux Klan leader, a detail that doesn't sit well with many students at Chapel Hill today.
- Students will present a petition to trustees, who say they're open to discussing changes, in May — but a name change isn't all they want. To remind everyone on campus of "UNC's white supremacist history," they're also calling for a plaque to be placed on the building.
The campus does have a policy on renaming buildings that will likely come into play here. Per that policy, "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."
Still, the policy has wiggle room, stating that names can't be changed just because those coming later may have made a different judgment about an honoree than those in their own time, but students argue that the building serves primarily as an "ongoing presence of white supremacy" on the campus. UNC could likely argue that it has been open and transparent about Saunders' past, as it mentions his affiliation with the Klan on its site.
Still, with a #KickOutTheKKK campaign going on Twitter and the issue gaining some national attention, it's plausible that the students could get what they want. A similar situation played out at the University of Texas a few years ago regarding a dorm building. Any number of schools in the South likely have buildings with similar benefactors and this issue goes beyond Klan associations — as InsideHigherEd points out, the Rhodes Scholarship's namesake espoused colonialist and racist ideas.
While it's unlikely that everything carrying the name of someone associated with such groups or actions will be renamed, it's probably best that institutions be as transparent about those negative associations or actions as possible.
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