At its Monday meeting, the University Commission on History, Race, and the Way Forward discussed the next consortium of universities studying slavery that UNC will host in the spring of 2023.
The USS, led by the University of Virginia, is a multi-institutional collaboration to address the institutional histories surrounding racism and slavery.
- Kirt von Daacke and Ashley Schmidt of the University of Virginia led the conversation and offered advice to the commission as it begins to plan the conference.
- Von Daacke is the co-chair of the president’s commission on college in an age of segregation at UVA, while Schmidt is the commission’s academic program manager.
- James Leloudis, co-chair of the UNC commission, said they would seek to decide on the theme quickly in order to send out a call to participants by the start of the fall semester.
- “We will very soon want to identify a broad theme, an interdisciplinary theme, a theme that recognizes that this work is not just contained within the academy, but involves a whole range of community partners and actors” , said Leloudis.
- Leloudis said the conference will likely take place during the week of spring break so that there is enough meeting space on central campus for conference events.
- “I think it’s really exciting to think about ways in which we can work together to include the local community as a really vital and central part of what we’re going to do,” Leloudis said.
- Von Daacke said the conference will be an opportunity to highlight the institutional and community history of the University.
- “It doesn’t need to be wrapped in a bow,” von Daacke said. “It can be” Here is our story, here are these important sites, here are the challenges. This can include recent and often uncomfortable events.”
- Von Daacke said the commission should seek to tell the University’s story creatively and keep in mind that this is not an academics-only conference.
- “Working to create signs that break down the wall between the community and the University,” von Daacke said.
- Von Daacke added that a student panel, student poster presentations, and student-led tours would all be good opportunities to engage undergraduates.
- “You are an educational institution. This is a perfect opportunity to highlight and model that with students,” von Daacke said.
- Schmidt said the conference can’t always be about the University and these community partners should take a leadership role on the planning committee.
- Schmidt said it was important for the commission to remember that it should allow the community of Chapel Hill to lead the commission.
- “We try not to go out to the community with already a perceived idea of what we’re going to basically offer or we’re going to let them,” Schmidt said. “We try to involve community stakeholders in the process very early on and try to meet as many of their requests as possible, because at least the people we interact with on a daily basis, it’s their story.
- Schmidt said that since this is the story of community members, they should tell it and decide what should be presented.
- Patricia Parker, co-chair of the commission, said as the commission is beginning to decide on a theme for the conference, she hopes the conference will attempt to speak directly to some of the issues directly at the heart of why the USS was formed, as the power .
- “I hope all stakeholders are really on board to think about the way forward,” Parker said. “How can we expand the conversation, change the conversation, and get these productive outcomes for our universities and for our commissions of our universities and communities.
- Leloudis said he thought the meeting helped outline the goals the commission should aim for.
- “In a way, it comes down to taking the last two words of our commission’s title seriously,” Leloudis said. “What does it mean to do this in a way that actually starts to chart a constructive and inclusive path?”
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