Friday, December 17, 2004

An alloyed honor

One surprising thing about the symposium held this fall on UNC's Reconstruction history in general and Cornelia Phillips Spencer's part in it in particular was that at least one woman who had won the pretigious Bell Award no longer felt good about it. Too many questions, too much uneasiness.

As Chancellor Moeser said last week in announcing the discontinuation of the award,

A universitywide award ought to be an unalloyed honor and joy. With our current understanding of Mrs. Spencer, the Bell Award is no longer that. As someone said, we now have an award with an asterisk beside its name.

Roses to the chancellor for making this difficult decision. Roses and laurels to Yonni Chapman for forcing his hand. But in the end, I suspect it was the strength of university women themselves that tipped the scale.
"Some esteemed women on our campus--women who I think could be considered for the Bell Award--were asked whether they would accept it if it were offered," Moeser explained in a Dec. 8 letter announcing the retiring of the award. "Their answer was 'no.'"

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