UNC campus leaders get extra time to decide Silent Sam’s fate

The rise and fall of Silent Sam

Silent Sam has stood on UNC-Chapel Hill's McCorkle Place for 105 years. On Monday August 20, 2018, it was brought down by protesters.
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Silent Sam has stood on UNC-Chapel Hill's McCorkle Place for 105 years. On Monday August 20, 2018, it was brought down by protesters.

The deadline will be extended for UNC-Chapel Hill officials to come up with a plan for the future location for the Silent Sam Confederate monument.

UNC Board of Governors Chairman Harry Smith said Friday that trustees on the Chapel Hill campus had asked for more time to sort through the options. The original deadline for a proposal to the Board of Governors was Nov. 15. Now, Smith said, the deadline will be slightly extended but it will be in plenty of time for the system board to consider at its Dec. 14 meeting.

“I think it’s a fair request,” he said. “It’s a lot more complex than I think any of us thought. You have to figure out a detailed, thorough plan, which is what we’ve asked them for, that encompasses key and critical constituents from all views and perspectives. So I think the process has been a little more robust than they anticipated originally.”

The statue was toppled by protesters on Aug. 20. Ever since, it has been kept in storage in an undisclosed location.

In late August, the system governing board directed UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt and the campus Board of Trustees to come up with a “lawful and lasting” plan that would address the “disposition and preservation” of the 105-year-old statue of a Confederate soldier.

Since then, the campus debate has focused on where the statue should be ultimately placed.

Last month, the Faculty Council, the representative governing body of the Chapel Hill faculty, called for Silent Sam and the pedestal it was on to be permanently removed from the campus. A resolution passed the council supporting a statement from black faculty, who had said the statue had no place anywhere on the campus.

The action by faculty followed listening sessions where individual professors had offered ideas for where the statue could go. Those ideas were submitted to the administration.

A 91-page report from the brainstorming meetings included a host of suggestions for the monument, including, burying it, moving it to a Civil War battlefield or state or federal museum, or auctioning it off and using the proceeds for scholarships for African-American students.

Two people on opposite sides of the Silent Sam issue - UNC student Tarik Woods and Sons of Confederate Veterans member Bill Starnes - sit down to discuss their views on the controversial Confederate statue.

Some ideas were probably offered tongue in cheek, such as putting the statue in the yard of UNC leaders Folt or UNC system President Margaret Spellings or in the board rooms of the trustees or Board of Governors. At least one person suggested giving it to President Donald Trump.

A 2015 state historic preservation law, which prevents the removal of objects of remembrance, says that if such an object is temporarily moved it must be returned to a place of similar prominence within 90 days. Nov. 15 would have been within the 90-day period. The law does not address a situation in which is statue is forcibly removed.

At least one member of the UNC Board of Governors has said the monument should be returned to its spot immediately. Others have said putting the statue back in its place would pose a safety threat and create an unwelcoming environment on the campus.

Jane Stancill: 919-829-4559

Supporters of Silent Sam arrived at the monument's base on Saturday, September 8, 2018. They were met with a counter-protest organized as a potluck and canned food drive. Supporters were escorted out, and several arrests were made afterwards.

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