Greenville resident Rodney White shares his opinion on the potential renaming of Aycock Residence Hall during the second public forum on the issue held Jan. 27. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Trustees listen as ECU community debates Aycock renaming

Jan. 28, 2015

By Kelly Setzer
ECU News Services

The second of two public forums was hosted by East Carolina University Tuesday to allow Board of Trustees members to hear community viewpoints on the possible renaming of Aycock Residence Hall.

Approximately 120 attendees joined the latest conversation in the auditorium of the East Carolina Heart Institute, where five board members including Chairman Robert Brinkley listened to varying perspectives.

“Our hope is that people who perhaps are on different sides will be able to listen and hear each other and thus come away with a better understanding,” Brinkley said. “This is a complicated issue, one that draws strong feelings, and the trustees’ role in these forums is to listen.”

Opened in 1960, the residence hall on College Hill was named for Charles B. Aycock, a former governor, lawyer, federal prosecutor and school superintendent who served as a spokesperson for white supremacy campaigns at the turn of the century.
ECU alumnus and former assistant vice chancellor Rudy Alexander, standing, speaks at the Jan. 27 forum.

Requests to revisit the naming of the residence hall were first heard from alumni and the university community early last year. An ad hoc naming committee made a recommendation to the chancellor last month, and he communicated his recommendation about the naming to the board at its December meeting. Both were in favor of renaming the residence hall. The board decided to delay its vote until the next scheduled meeting on Feb. 19-20.

Tuesday’s forum was geared toward employees, alumni and the community. Attendees included a wide variety of university supporters.

“I am a product of a segregated school system, but I am proud to say that my wife and each of my children have a degree from ECU,” said Ed Carter, former mayor and longtime resident of Greenville. “We are not asking you to undo things that have been done, but don’t perpetuate something that is clearly dividing the community.”

Rudy Alexander, a 1954 graduate of ECU and former assistant vice chancellor, expressed concern about changing the name of the residence hall.

“I have no love for Aycock, but he was a man of his time. He was a part of history and I think it is wrong to tamper with history,” Alexander said. “We have many other distinguished people named for buildings on campus and I’m concerned about where to draw the line.”

The first forum—which took place Monday afternoon—drew more than 100 people to Wright Auditorium and focused on gathering student input. Ten board members and roughly 40 speakers joined for that session.

ECU junior Amy Bright said she was unfamiliar with Governor Aycock before the issue arose on campus. After doing some research, she concluded that the residence hall should be renamed.

“We cannot allow a dorm that houses minorities to be named for a man who represented white supremacy,” she said during the forum. “We can do the easy thing, which is not the right thing. Or we can do the hard thing, which is the right thing.”

Senior Adam Caldwell shared a different perspective. “We are setting a standard if we change this name that will have to be applied all across campus,” he said. “I cannot see how, if we are to change Aycock, the names of Jarvis or Wright or other buildings can continue to exist.”

The ad hoc naming committee will record and use feedback from both public forums to update its recommendation to the chancellor by Feb. 11.

For more information about Aycock Residence Hall and the work of the ad hoc naming committee, visit www.ecu.edu/aycock.

Pictured below, ECU Board of Trustees chairman Robert Brinkley, far left, addresses the Jan. 26 forum. Ten board members were on hand to hear opinions about the proposed renaming of Aycock Hall.