ECU Board of Trustees chair Robert Brinkley, left, and board member Edwin Clark listen to discussion during the Feb. 19-20 board meeting. The board voted to transition the name of Charles B. Aycock from a residence hall to a new space in Heritage Hall where contributors to the university's history will be recognized. (Photos by Cliff Hollis and Jay Clark)

Aycock legacy will transition to Heritage Hall

Feb. 20, 2015

By Crystal Baity and Kelly Setzer
ECU News Services

East Carolina University’s Board of Trustees voted Feb. 20 to transition the name of Charles B. Aycock from a residence hall to a new space where the building’s namesake and others will be recognized.

Trustees called for the creation of a Heritage Hall which will be a permanent place where people of historical significance to the university are acknowledged in an “authentic and comprehensive context.” The Aycock name will be transferred to the hall as soon as it’s developed. There was no discussion on a possible new name for the residence hall.
Linda Thomas, past president of the ECU Black Alumni Chapter, wipes her eyes following the board's decision regarding Aycock Residence Hall.

“We believe that Aycock’s legacy to education and his role in the history of ECU will be better recognized and understood in Heritage Hall,” said Board of Trustees Chairman Robert Brinkley.

Chancellor Steve Ballard, the Student Government Association, ECU’s faculty and staff senates and the ad-hoc naming committee recommended renaming the residence hall, which opened in 1960 and honors 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.

The board’s decision comes after months of feedback, including two public forums and an informal online survey about renaming the residence hall that received more than 2,500 responses. Earlier this week, a panel of faculty members hosted an information session on Aycock’s legacy that was attended by more than 50 people despite wintry weather that closed classes early.

The board vote capped a week of advocacy organized by students called “Judgment Week” that included a sit-in at the residence hall and students lining the steps to Mendenhall Student Center’s Great Room where trustees held their bi-monthly meeting.

Tyler Morrison, president of the Black Student Union, said the week had given students a way to express their views. “With the length of the process, it discouraged some students,” Morrison said. “We just wanted to make sure we got that student opinion out there.”

Morrison wiped away tears and hugged other students after the board vote. “There is a high sense of accomplishment,” Morrison said. “It affirms our faith in our university that our student voice, opinion and culture really matters to the trustees and administrators on campus.”

Requests to revisit the naming were first heard from alumni and the university community early last year.

Jake Srednicki, ECU’s Student Government Association president who was sworn in at the start of the meeting, said Judgment Week reflected the leadership of students taking a peaceful stand. He said renaming the residence hall is supported by a majority of ECU’s 27,589 students, many of whom wrote letters to trustees, participated in discussion boards and attended forums to learn more about the issue.

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Virginia Hardy, right, holds the Bible while new SGA President Jake Srednicki is sworn in at the Board of Trustees meeting.

“The board is proud in particular of every student who expressed his or her views on both sides of this issue,” Brinkley said. “Your contributions were very important in reaching this decision. We respect how you handled yourselves throughout the process and encourage you to continue to be engaged in the university's business.”

Trustees directed the chancellor, Brinkley and the board’s Athletics and Advancement Committee to develop a plan for the creation of Heritage Hall.

University Advancement will seek private donations to pay for the hall and the Athletics and Advancement Committee will recommend its location.

Also the board’s University Affairs Committee was asked to study the implementation of a mandatory curriculum on the university’s history and the times of its founding. The committee will evaluate the chancellor’s proposal on a Center for Racial Diversity, its content, objectives and cost and ways to demonstrate ECU’s commitment to minority recruitment.

ECU becomes the first state-supported university in North Carolina to make a decision regarding buildings named for Aycock and his contemporaries. Several UNC system schools are considering name changes. Duke University voted last year to rename a dorm that previously honored Aycock.

“As trustees we are often asked to respond to issues that are difficult. This was one in which there were no easy answers,” Brinkley said. “But we believe we arrived at the right decision for East Carolina University, one that was based on significant research and input from many constituencies. We believe the decision supports the university’s mission, vision and values.”

In other business, the Board of Trustees:

  • Heard an update about the university’s continued work on Title IX and sexual assault awareness during the executive committee lunch discussion on Thursday. The presentation included a brief history on the issue, an overview of the investigation process, and details about an ongoing communication plan. In addition to extensive training and educational programming, efforts will focus on increasing awareness through the website and other resources and the use of promotional graphics across campus and on social media. “We need to use this communication plan as a model for other initiatives,” said Trustee Deborah Davis. “This is light years from where we started. I’m very pleased with the direction this is headed and what has been accomplished so far.”

  • Voted to create a millennium campus to be named the East Carolina Research and Innovation Campus. “It’s something we all feel strongly about and can be a real game-changer for the area we serve,” Brinkley said. The recommendation will go the UNC Board of Governors for approval.

  • Approved the purchase of the former ABC store in downtown Greenville located at 119 S. Cotanche St. at a total cost of $550,000. The 4,600-square-foot building likely will be used for offices. With the acquisition, the university will own a city block bordering Cotanche, Reade, 1st and 2nd streets. ECU’s financial services building as well as Building 141 and Building 127 are already located in the block.

  • Approved the lease of off-campus apartments at The Landing, North Campus Crossing and The Province for student housing for the 2015-2016 academic year.

Pictured below, board member Max Joyner Jr., left, asks questions and board member Vern Davenport listens during a Feb. 19 presentation about the university's continued work on Title IX and sexual assault awareness.