The UNC building formerly known as Saunders Hall will now be named Carolina Hall.
The UNC Board of Trustees, at their final meeting as a group on Thursday, passed three resolutions concerning the renaming of Saunders Hall.
One result will be the building that houses Geography and Religious Study courses will now be named Carolina Hall.
Board of Trustees Chair Lowry Caudill shared the board’s reasoning for settling on Carolina Hall.
“We wanted a name that was a unifying name,” Caudill says. “We wanted a name that we could reach back to where we started, where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re headed. We felt that at this point in time a unifying name was important.
“We’re going to build new buildings at Carolina in the future, and we’ll have plenty of names to put on those buildings. And we will use names in the future.”
Saunders Hall has been a rallying point for those that say they feel disengaged by the university due to the building’s namesake. William L. Saunders was a Colonel in the Confederate Army during the Civil War and has been linked to the Ku Klux Klan as a leader of the terrorist group in the late 1860’s.
The Board of Trustees points out that when Saunders Hall was named after the Confederate Colonel in 1922, one of Saunders’ listed qualifications by the board was that he was the “Head of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina.”
Board Vice Chair Alston Gardner adds the board saw this as a chance to correct an error.
“There are a number of troublesome people in our history, but that’s reality,” Gardner says. “This case, we felt, was very different than someone having objectionable racist views.
“This was the institution honoring someone for being the leader of a terrorist organization. That’s just not going to fly.”
The resolution that calls for the renaming of Saunders Hall passed the board by a vote of 10–3. The three members of the board that voted against renaming the building were Haywood Cochrane, Peter Grauer, and Dwight Stone.
Cochrane says that is because of his lean to a broader sense of board governance.
“I think many of us were more conflicted toward the end of this process than where we were when we began it,” Cochrane says, “because there are compelling reasons to do what we did.
“The critical thing is how we go forward in this. A sense of history and a sense of different constituencies that we, as a board, represent was a major part of my thinking.”
Cochrane did emphasize that all of the board members would support the decision, even if they voted against the resolution.
Willie Right is a doctoral student in the geography department at UNC, which is housed in Saunders Hall. He says he is feeling mixed emotions about the name change.
“Students are glad that the name is being changed,” Right says, “but we’re also disappointed because we were desiring and demanding that the name be changed to Hurston Hall in honor of Zora Neale Hurston.
“Who was an unofficial student of UNC’s campus because she took classes here when it was illegal for African-American’s to take classes at UNC.”
After the meeting board members told the media that Hurston’s name had been considered but strong enough connections could not be found tying Hurston to UNC.
The board as part of a comprehensive change ultimately passed three resolutions.
The first of which calls for the creation of historical markers for McCorkle Place and Saunders Hall, creating an on-line orientation program for all new members of the UNC community – students, faculty, and staff – and a study be conducted to find the feasibility of a public space to house a permanent collection of UNC’s history.
The second resolution proposed renaming the building Carolina Hall, requires a historical marker to be placed on, in, or near the building explaining the contributions to UNC and the state by William L. Saunders, the naming of the building in the 1920’s, and why the board initially chose Saunders for the building’s namesake. This resolution also requests that a plaque be placed near the building that states, “We honor and remember all of those who have suffered injustices at the hands of those who would deny them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
The third and final resolution declares a 16-year freeze on renaming historical buildings, monuments, memorials, and landscapes to allow for the education and curation efforts to take effect.
This was the final meeting of the current Board of Trustees. Vice Chair Alston Gardner, Secretary Sallie Shuping-Russell, Phil Clay, Steve Lerner, and Peter Grauer were all attending their final meeting as board members on Thursday.
Student Body President Houston Summers was sworn in for his term on the board at the beginning of the meeting, officially taking over that role from Andrew Powell.