by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Shannon Watkins of the Martin Center focuses on the questionable mission of a new commission at UNC-Chapel Hill.
To say that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has experienced racial tensions in the last few years would be an understatement. The most visible source of conflict has been the fate of the infamous—and illegally toppled —Confederate statue, Silent Sam. But even after the statue’s demise, activists at Chapel Hill insist that their work to root out racism from the university has just begun.
Activists do not believe UNC’s relationship with racism is only in the past. It is just as present today, only now it is largely “invisible” and “systemic” in the university’s curriculum, policies, and in the attitudes of students, faculty, and staff. The need for an all-encompassing struggle with this invisible racism, in their view, calls for an all-encompassing re-ordering of UNC.
And the university’s new chancellor, Kevin Guskiewicz, has made it part of his mission to validate activists’ evident contempt for the university by obliging their demands.
Within the first few weeks of becoming chancellor, Guskiewicz had already drafted initiatives that would further activists’ grievances against the university. However, as much as Guskiewicz may have convinced himself that such efforts will contribute to the university’s goal of education and the “improvement of the human condition,” it is much more likely to engender deeper resentment among those whom he aims to appease.
The first effort, implemented last fall, is the “Reckoning: Race, Memory and Reimagining the Public University Initiative,” which consisted of a series of courses students could take to explore the history of race at UNC. …
… The second effort, launched in January, is a 15-person “commission” entitled “History, Race, and a Way Forward.” The commission, co-chaired by history professor James Leloudis and communications department chair Patricia Parker, will focus on three general areas: 1) archives, history, research and curation; 2) curriculum development and teaching; and 3) engagement, ethics and reckoning.