Education

Boycotting UNC students sold food. The university said no. Now, they’re giving it away.

Protesters call for removal of UNC's Silent Sam statue

A group of about 100 gathered at the "Silent Sam" statue on the UNC campus to protest, seeking for it to be removed from the school grounds, on August 31, 2017.
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A group of about 100 gathered at the "Silent Sam" statue on the UNC campus to protest, seeking for it to be removed from the school grounds, on August 31, 2017.

UNC-Chapel Hill students that are boycotting the university’s commercial entities thought they had a clever way of keeping their classmates away from snack bars, cafes and the student store – offering a cheap “alternative lunch” at convenient spots on campus.

But now they’ve been informed that selling food on campus is against university policy.

The boycott, organized by the Campus Y student social justice group, started Monday and will continue until Oct. 18. It is aimed at persuading the university’s administration to remove the Silent Sam Confederate statue from campus.

A student group called Nourish UNC-Chapel Hill sold rice, beans and cornbread for $5 on Monday and Wednesday. On Tuesday, it was $3 pupusas, a traditional Salvadoran stuffed tortilla, served at the Campus Y. The proceeds were to be set aside for the UNC Center for Civil Rights, a law school center that earlier this month was banned from filing legal actions on behalf of their poor and minority clients.

The Confederate statue on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus known as 'Silent Sam' was a point of friction and protest long before becoming part of the national conversation. Here's a look at the monument's history.

By Wednesday night, the group announced a change in their lunch plans.

“Good news: The boycott is working. The university is not thrilled,” said a notice on the Nourish Facebook page. “Bad news: The university is attempting to shut down our alternative meal option. They have threatened to shut us down on the basis of us selling products outside of the Pit area.”

The Pit is a popular gathering spot at the center of campus.

The boycotting students’ solution: free lunch. Students were back the next day with chickpea curry, along with a plea for donations.

University spokeswoman Joanne Peters Denny said a UNC facility use policy requires that any “commercial exchanges” on campus must first be approved by the vice chancellor for student affairs.

“The Campus Y did not submit such a request, and after being informed of the policy decided to provide the food without charging a sale, which addresses the University’s concerns at this time,” Denny wrote in an email.

The policy stipulates that outdoor property use must be limited to the Pit, scheduled and limited in time among other requirements, Denny wrote.

Students say they won’t be deterred.

“We won’t be discouraged by this. This is just another reminder that the university administration does not support their students,” the Facebook post said. “Nourish believes in this boycott and will continue to provide food in order to support it.”

Silent Sam protesters have also complained UNC has removed their signs and banners, citing university policy.

A small group of Confederate flag-waving counterprotesters tried to interrupt an anti-Silent Sam vigil at UNC Chapel Hill on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017.

Jane Stancill: 919-829-4559, @janestancill

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