After years of student protests and demonstrations, the board of trustees of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has finally decided to rename one of the campus buildings that honored Ku Klux Klan leader William Saunders.
For quite some time student activists at the university have been urging leaders to rename Saunders Hall and their persistence has finally paid off.
The board of trustees announced on Thursday that Saunders Hall will be renamed Carolina Hall while the university focuses on developing new education initiatives that would add more context to the school’s history.
Proposals so far have ignited ideas for a new website and an updated campus tour that would give a thorough look into the school’s past and how it aligns with the history of slavery and civil rights.
“These efforts to curate the campus and teach the past with greater context will present future generations with a more accurate, complete and accessible understanding of Carolina’s history,” said Dr. Lowry Caudill, chairman of the board of trustees, according to the Huffington Post.
How the school will navigate that history in the future is still uncertain as specific details have not emerged, but the school did reveal that a plaque will be placed in Carolina Hall that will work to pay respects to those who “suffered injustices at the hands of those who would deny them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
It’s refreshing news for the students who have long expressed concerns that the campus wasn’t welcoming to students of all backgrounds with a building honoring a KKK leader.
Saunders became known as the “chief organizer of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina and Chapel Hill around 1869,” the university explained.
While he was also an alum of the UNC class, students noted the fact that his position in the KKK was specifically listed as one of the qualifications that led to him being honored with Saunders Hall.
Saunders Hall wasn’t the only building that student activists wanted renamed.
Another building on the campus is named after Charles Aycock, “who was involved in the white supremacy movement around the turn of the 20th century,” the Huffington Post noted.
But a part of the board of trustees announcement was a 16-year freeze on the renaming of any other buildings on the school’s campus.
So while students were hoping to use the momentum from the Saunders Hall renaming to push for other changes on campus, it seems the Aycock Residence building will remain for at least another four generations of students.
Other universities that also had buildings honoring Aycock, such as Duke University and East Carolina University, have already decided to rename such buildings due to Aycock’s troubling legacy.