It might be called “starting somewhere.” At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a voluntary initiative dubbed “Carolina Conversations” will invite students to participate in forums for discussion, some of their own formation, others helped along by the university, on race and diversity.
And for their part, the university’s trustees will be considering the different viewpoints regarding the naming of buildings and artwork on campus tied to figures in the university’s history who have some decidedly troublesome history of their own, linking them to racially divisive organizations. It is possible some buildings will wind up with new names.
Those who object to such actions say such proposals amount to the “rewriting” of history, to bows to political correctness beyond reason. But proponents of name changes counter that taking a name off a building (recently done at East Carolina University) isn’t rewriting anything, but recognizing that the feelings of minority students, who once couldn’t attend many UNC branches, should be respected.
One thing is certain: In the wake of Ferguson and the racist slogans shouted on a fraternity jaunt in Oklahoma and claims by women of sexual attacks, it’s long since time to talk. Conversation alone won’t end racism or sexism or worse, but it might help students understand the issues and one another better. And having these talks when these students are young, with decades ahead of them in a society that’s heading toward more racial diversity, may shape a better and more understanding future.
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If there is a place where these discussions should happen, and should be open, and should be showcases for free speech of all positions, it is a university campus.