An ECU student strolls across the parking lot in front of Aycock Residence Hall. A motion to change the building's name was tabled until February by the Board of Trustees in a Dec. 18 meeting. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)
Trustees vote to table recommendation to rename Aycock Residence Hall
After two hours and 30 minutes of debate, East Carolina University’s governing body voted unanimously to table a decision on renaming Aycock Residence Hall in a special called meeting Dec. 18.
ECU trustee Mark Copeland made a motion “to move to delay consideration of a motion to accept Chancellor Steve Ballard’s recommendation to un-name Aycock Residence Hall until the February board meeting.” The motion was seconded by Deborah Davis.
The action came after Ballard and an ad-hoc committee appointed to consider renaming the residence hall recommended that the name be changed.
“There are strong feelings on both sides of this issue, as reflected by the board’s own discussion today,” Board of Trustees Chairman Robert Brinkley said. “There are many levels of concerns and the feeling of the majority was that we should take sufficient time for the views and concerns to be duly considered. We want to address this issue in a responsive manner, and believe more time is needed to do so.”
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 senior Sameer Thadani of Lumberton was disappointed with the outcome and said there had been sufficient time for trustees to consider the issue and make a decision. Tyler Moore, a junior from Mebane and ECU’s student body speaker of the senate, said he believed that the lack of a decision “was a victim of trying to rush the process through to start with.”
He pointed out that the meeting was held on the last day of final exams when many students had already left campus and most trustees were not able to attend in person. “My biggest frustration is the speed of the process ended up hurting the outcome,” Moore said.
Two trustees, chairman Robert Brinkley and Mark Copeland, attended the special called meeting at Mendenhall Student Center. Others participated by phone.
The university began receiving requests by alumni and community constituents to re-examine the name of the residence hall in early 2014. Administrators reviewed all of ECU’s named facilities and its naming policy, which was initially adopted in 1997 and last amended in 2009 and again at the board’s November meeting. Only Aycock Residence Hall was tapped for further review.
The 10-member ad-hoc committee voted unanimously Dec. 12 to recommend the renaming of Aycock Hall. Led by chair of the ECU faculty, Andrew Morehead, the committee was made up of faculty, staff, students and alumni.
“We believe the honoree’s reputation has changed substantially so that the continued use of that name dishonors the university’s standards and is contrary to the best interest of the university in that it prevents the university from fostering a ‘diverse community where intellectual freedom, scholarly discipline and the rigorous pursuit of knowledge thrive’ for students, staff and faculty, and does not reflect our intolerance of such racist actions,” the committee wrote in an eight-page summary prepared for the chancellor.
The committee received 2,433 responses via an informal online poll and website created to provide additional information about the residence hall and historical documents on Charles B. Aycock as well as gather feedback from the campus community.
At its Nov. 21 regular board meeting, trustees directed Ballard to activate the ad-hoc committee, as defined in a revised facility naming policy, to consider the un-naming/renaming of Aycock Hall and to report no later than its February meeting.
However, trustee Danny Scott requested that the issue be addressed before the end of the year.
Scott said he was willing to postpone the vote until February because he wanted his fellow board members to have time to research the issue.
Davis said “I’m anxious to bring this to a vote and closure,” adding she wants the board to take action in February.
Attorney Kieran Shanahan of Raleigh rejoined the Board of Trustees this month after being appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory. He joined the Board in July 2011 and resigned in January 2013. He will fill the remaining term of Bobby Owens of Manteo, who resigned his seat in November. That term expires in June 2015.