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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with J. Carlyle Sitterson, November 4 and 6, 1987. Interview L-0030. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Sitterson's relationship to President William Friday and the student body

Sitterson explains his good working relationship with UNC President William Friday and the student body. He advocated open communication with student activists, but avoided the potential for student sit-ins.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with J. Carlyle Sitterson, November 4 and 6, 1987. Interview L-0030. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

PAMELA DEAN:
How about your relationship with President Friday when all these things that were going on?
J. CARLYLE SITTERSON:
Well, Friday. In fact Governor Scott said that when he was in a big hassle with the structure of higher education because we were undergoing, said that everybody knows that President Friday runs the Chapel Hill campus. In respect to all these things we've been talking about, President Friday was involved in all of them. I always involved him. In other words, because, after all, who knows, any one of them might come to an instance in which he's either got to overrule me or affirm it. So he was kept, well, he kept well-informed about every one of these, and of course, he was involved in the Speaker Ban controversy all the way through and a party to the suit, as I was. I didn't take any position on these issues that I hadn't informed him that I was going to take. Again, we did not, as I recall, openly disagree about any one of those positions.
PAMELA DEAN:
There was no time when he said, you know, "Let's not do that. It's not going to go."
J. CARLYLE SITTERSON:
No, I don't remember that. I don't remember that. He was not the person who was personally identified with the policy because, unless he was going to overrule it or do something else, it was something that had been decided by this campus. That was true even of the Speaker Ban, except less true of that because that involved passage of procedures by the Board of Trustees and all that kind of thing.
PAMELA DEAN:
It was a system-wide policy. This happened to be the place that was testing it.
J. CARLYLE SITTERSON:
Right. But these other things, he was not the person who was identified with presenting it and justifying it and so on, even though he had been informed and consented to it before… Because I don't recall, I don't think Friday would cut off if the Chancellor and he got into a disagreement about an issue, and this Chancellor wanted to take it to the trustees anyway. I don't believe Friday would cut it off. I think he would say to the trustees that he did not agree with that, but he wanted the Chancellor to have an opportunity to present it. But I didn't have any instances of that kind, so I don't know. Didn't have that problem at all. People talk about the relationships between the President and the Chancellor. In one sense, the problem here is that the President's office and personal presence is here, and this is a small town, and the plain fact is, I've said all the time, you can't have two number ones in the same place, and that's essentially the position of the Chancellor in this system. The Chancellor doesn't have that problem if he's the Chancellor in Greensboro or the Chancellor in Raleigh because the President is clearly not there. Students and faculty too take advantage of that and did over a long time during the Friday [regime]. Now what will happen in the new regime, I don't know.
PAMELA DEAN:
But did, I don't recall, were the student marches for various issues, did they march on your house, or did they march on President Friday's?
J. CARLYLE SITTERSON:
Both, both. But I'll tell you one instance. One night, they came to my house--hundreds. Now, it happened that Nancy and I had gone to bed, and the lights were out, and they were chanting and what not and so on.
PAMELA DEAN:
Do you remember what the issue was in this case?
J. CARLYLE SITTERSON:
I think it was in the wake of the Kent State thing. Really, the campus got more incensed over that. There were more people who were involved.
PAMELA DEAN:
Yes, it was a very hot issue.
J. CARLYLE SITTERSON:
I said to Nancy, "I'm not about to turn on the lights or get up and go out. This is not a time that I want to because they were probably not in a state of mind to engage in a rational discussion." And Chief Beaumont, do you know who Beaumont is? [Arthur Beaumont, Chief of Campus Police.
PAMELA DEAN:
Yes.
J. CARLYLE SITTERSON:
Beaumont apparently came up and told them that the Chancellor was out for the evening. So I could hear them discussing it back and forth because they were right outside the house, oh, by the hundreds. That same night, they went to Friday's house and poured paint, red paint, on the porch steps. That's just an illustration of coming to two houses. You may or may not remember that over at Duke… A lot of the Duke activists came to President Knight's residence, and Knight invited them in. They never left. They occupied his house, day and night. That led to Knight's, the end of his tenure as President of Duke.
PAMELA DEAN:
Very fine line, then, that you had to walk between being accessible and maintaining a position.