UNC Greensboro to take supremacist’s name off auditorium

UNC Greensboro will rename its Aycock Auditorium, becoming the latest university to drop the name of the former North Carolina governor because of his white supremacist activity a century ago.

The vote by UNCG trustees was unanimous after more than a year of study by committees that considered the legacy of Charles B. Aycock, who was governor from 1901 to 1905. Known as the “education governor,” Aycock built hundreds of schools across the state but also supported a white supremacy campaign that disenfranchised black voters in the early 1900s.

UNCG’s action followed a recent flurry of renaming buildings on other campuses in North Carolina. Duke University and East Carolina have removed the Aycock name from residence halls. Last year, UNC-Chapel Hill trustees decided that Saunders Hall, named for purported Ku Klux Klan leader William Saunders, would instead be called Carolina Hall.

A new name for UNCG’s Aycock Auditorium has not been chosen.

Susan Safran, board chair at UNCG, said the process had been extensive. “The board performed extraordinary due diligence in examining the history and relevance of this decision,” she said in a news release after the vote.

Consideration of the Aycock name began in September 2014 with the appointment of a committee to examine the historical connection between Aycock and the university.

A second panel – a subcommittee appointed by trustees – recommended the renaming earlier Thursday, issuing a statement: “The Subcommittee finds that while Governor Charles B. Aycock had many accomplishments, Governor Aycock’s beliefs, actions, and resulting reputation related to matters of racial discrimination are contrary to the best interests of the University given its current mission and values.”

UNCG is among the most diverse campuses in the state’s public university system, with a total minority enrollment of 43 percent. African American students make up 24 percent of the student body.

The university’s new chancellor, Franklin Gilliam Jr., concurred with the decision, according to a statement released Thursday.

“I agree that this course of action is in the best interest of the university, and I am hopeful that the conversations begun during this process have formed a foundation for continuing thoughtful dialogue,” said Gilliam, UNCG’s first African American chancellor.

UNCG will develop a plan for educating the campus on the various aspects of Aycock’s history. The effort will be led by a UNCG history professor and graduate students in the university’s museum studies program.

Jane Stancill: 919-829-4559, @janestancill