Student group upset over UNCW chancellor’s use of ‘All Lives Matter’ during Town Hall

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UNCW (Photo: Sydney Bouchelle/WWAY)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The UNCW Black Student Union said during a Town Hall meeting to discuss ways the university could show their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, Chancellor Zito Sartarelli said that would be difficult to do because he believes All Lives Matter.

The group said the chancellor’s response came during a suggestion the university could possibly paint #BLM somewhere on campus.

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“The fury, the anguish, and the sadness felt by the black student leaders made it very clear that the problem is the head of this institution,” the group wrote on Facebook. “Although we too believe that all lives matter, our Chancellor must realize as well as those who think the same that all lives can’t matter until Black Lives Matter.”

Black student leaders said they are disappointed in the chancellor’s comments and cannot support a university whose leadership does not stand with them, calling this a ‘fight for our lives.’

WWAY reached out to UNCW for a response and was forwarded an email Chancellor Sarterelli sent to Chris Neal, the head of UNCW’s Black Student Union.

“Dear Chris:

I thank you for your thoughtful response, and for your time and candor during last night’s call. Your response below is understandable, and I appreciate the opportunity to respond.

I want to make clear, and should have done so last night, that I believe the Black experience unequivocally must be the focus of efforts to increase the safety and well-being of our students and community. The events of the past few weeks have underlined the need for us to recommit to our institutional values of diversity, inclusion and respect, and especially for those students historically marginalized, who have lived in fear of violence, bigotry, or unfair or cruel treatment.

I am very grateful that you shared last night, and again this morning, what you believe our institutional needs to be if we are to make the progress that is both necessary and overdue. I assure you we will take great care to evaluate them and determine what our next steps may be, collaborating with our students at every opportunity. Your voice is being heard. You are the reason we are here, and we have an obligation to respond to your concerns and any threats to your safety, education, or enjoyment of being a Seahawk. I also want to acknowledge that I must be open to listening, responding with sensitivity, and learning more about the concerns and needs of our Black student population. It is so important that moving forward, I do my best to respond with empathy and an open mind.

Thank you again, and I look forward to continuing this discussion, and this important work. I hope you will remain open to that collaboration, and I am optimistic that together we can effect the change that will be so critical to UNCW’s future, and most importantly, will help ensure that our students can and will thrive in a safe, supportive and diverse environment.”

As word got out about the chancellor’s comment, a petition was started that calls from Chancellor Sartarelli’s resignation or removal. At last check, it had 245 signatures.