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Students, faculty discuss removal of Carr Building name

The Carr Building on East Campus has been renamed the Classroom Building until a new name is chosen.

In addition to their renaming decision, the Board of Trustees also supported the recommendation to create a display inside the building to explain why it had been named after Julian Carr in 1930 and why it has been renamed after all these years.  

“This was a welcome decision, and it is encouraging to see that the University is grappling with the legacy of white supremacy on campus,” said John Jeffries Martin, professor of history and chair of the history department. “I was also encouraged by the process the administration put in place that enabled the history faculty and many others—current students and alumni—to bring concerns about Carr to the attention of the president and the trustees.”

Referring to a seminar called Slavery and Universities, Honor Council Chair Nick Santangelo, a junior, reflected on how the foundation of the United States—including its long-standing institutions of higher education—was created and sustained through financial accumulations of the slave economy. 

“I am in favor of the Board's decision to rename Carr, as there is historical evidence to suggest that he fails to align with our community's current values and is not a figure that we should be continuing to honor by name on one of our buildings,” he said. “I'm also strongly in favor of the committee's recommendation to present educational and historical information on Carr, as I think it's important to still understand our University's complex historical foundation instead of trying to erase it from our minds.”

Senior Kristina Smith, Duke Student Government president, also said she was pleased with the Board's decision. 

"I think the removal of his name from the building demonstrates, specifically to the Black community on Duke’s campus, that Duke does not support white supremacy," she said. "I am also so proud that the history of this decision is one of a student initiative, generated from students of color most affected by the toxic narrative of Julian Carr’s words and actions."

Senior Kushal Kadakia echoed the sentiment. 

“I wholeheartedly believe renaming the Carr Building to be the right decision and applaud the Board for taking action,” Kadakia said.

First-year Kyle Newman said that keeping the name of the building was not the only way to acknowledge racism in Duke's history.

“In having the discussion and choosing to remove it, we’re actively confronting the racism in Duke’s history and choosing our values," Newman said. "If anything, sanitization of the past happens when you ignore the historic racism present around us."

Martin explained process of reverting to the former name of the building. 

“It had always been my understanding that the board would examine the matter of whether or not to remove Carr’s name first and then turn its attention to the question of renaming the building," Martin said. "Since the board has not yet made a final determination on the second matter, this is a logical intermediate step.”

Smith also commented on the renaming.

"It is imperative that the students and faculty who advocated for this change are also key contributors to the official renaming of the building," Smith said.

First-year Jessica Falbaum said that after Duke has condemned racism by taking Carr's name off the building, she thinks the options for renaming it should be open.

The Duke history department had proposed renaming the building in honor of Raymond Gavins, one of the first African-American faculty members, who taught at Duke for 45 years. 

“Ray was a huge supporter of students and did much to make the campus an inclusive and welcoming place,” Martin said. “I know the board still has his name under consideration. Since I cannot think of a single individual who embodies Duke’s values and aspirations more than Ray, I continue to believe that dedicating the building in his honor would be a beautiful decision.”


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