Letters to the Editor

UNC faculty: Where is leadership on Silent Sam issue?

Confederate statue known as Silent Sam removed after being toppled by protesters

UNC workers remove the toppled Silent Sam statue from campus early Tuesday morning after protesters pulled it down Monday night, Aug. 21, 2018.
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UNC workers remove the toppled Silent Sam statue from campus early Tuesday morning after protesters pulled it down Monday night, Aug. 21, 2018.

Show leadership

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.” – President John F. Kennedy

A year ago, amidst long overdue articulation of the horror memorialized by the Confederate statue on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, university administrators had the chance to show leadership in resolving a divisive issue. They dodged.

Monday night, the Confederate statue was removed. The means was not the most desirable, but the horror it represented, the decades of indulgence by the university, and the recent studied deafness of the administration made such an action nearly inevitable, as President Kennedy predicted.

In all our disciplines, we try to encourage critical inquiry. The most cursory critical inquiry has made clear, time and again, that the Confederate statue memorialized racism, that the purpose of its installation – as celebrated by the oratory that accompanied it – was to enforce and sustain racism. To assert anything else about its history and motive is naïve at best and abetting the cause it embodied at worst.

The time is now for leadership. Surely a means might be found to recognize the sacrifices of UNC graduates and friends in the too many wars our nation has endured, but a way to memorialize the individuals who made those sacrifices, not the horrible cause in which, sadly, many of them died.

In responding to the removal of the statue, the administration has said that “safety and security ... will remain our top priority.” What about the safety and security of the African American woman whose beating was celebrated in the speeches at the unveiling of the statue? What about the safety of the thousands of citizens who have been beaten and murdered through the cause the statue advanced? This is not about safety. It is about the heart of our country. For our administrators to continue to dodge that simple reality is coy and cruel.

The administration has asked the State Bureau of Investigation to become involved and assures that “we will use the full breadth of state and University processes to hold those responsible accountable for their actions.” Law enforcement, public safety and respect for the history that surrounded the statue and its removal require discretion. Leadership requires it as well.

The time is now for the university administration to show leadership, not bureaucratic obfuscation. Show us that you and the university do indeed stand for Lux et Libertas, not sustaining and enforcing the symbols of human cruelty.

This letter was co-signed by 49 UNC faculty members. They are listed alphabetically below.

Edwin B. Fisher, Professor, Department of Health Behavior, others listed alphabetically

Allison E. Aiello, Professor, Department of Epidemiology

William L. Andrews, E. Maynard Adams Professor, Department of English and Comparative Literature

Florence E. Babb, Harrington Distinguished Professor, Department of Anthropology

Clare L. Barrington, Professor, Department of Health Behavior

Peggy Bentley, Carla Smith Chamblee Distinguished Professor, Department of Nutrition

Marcella H. Boynton, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Behavior

Jane Brown, James L. Knight Professor Emeritus, School of Media and Journalism

Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Associate Professor, Department of English and Comparative Literature

Crystal Wiley Cene, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine

Jan Chambers, Professor, Department of Dramatic Art

Dana Coen, Professor, Department of Communication

Geni Eng, Professor, Department of Health Behavior

Susan Ennett, Professor, Department of Health Behavior

Sue E. Estroff, Professor, Department of Social Medicine

Marcie Cohen Ferris, Professor Emeritus, Department of American Studies

William Ferris, Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor Emeritus, Department of History and Center for Study of the American South

Rebecka Rutledge Fisher, Associate Professor, Department of English and Comparative Literature

Mary Floyd-Wilson, Professor, Department of English and Comparative Literature

Shelley Golden, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Behavior

Carol E. Golin, Professor, Departments of Medicine and Health Behavior

Nisha C. Gottfredson, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Behavior

Marianne Gingher, Professor, Department of English and Comparative Literature

Minrose Gwin, Kenan Eminent Professor Emerita, Department of English and Comparative Literature

Rob Hamilton, Lecturer, Department of Communication

Gail E. Henderson, Professor, Departments of Social Medicine and Sociology

Jim Herrington, Professor, Department of Health Behavior

Fred Hobson, Lineberger Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Department of English and Comparative Literature

Malcolm Ray Hunter, Jr., Adjunct Professor, School of Law

Megan D. E. Landfried, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Behavior

Jacqueline Lawton, Assistant Professor, Department of Dramatic Art

Alexandra F. Lightfoot, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Behavior

Laura A. Linnan, Professor, Department of Health Behavior

Leslie A. Lytle, Professor, Departments of Health Behavior and Nutrition

Alice E. Marwick, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication

Derrick Matthews, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Behavior

John McGowan. Hanes Distinguished Professor of English

Joseph Megel, Artist in Residence, Department of Communication

Beth Moracco, Associate Professor, Department of Health Behavior

Kate Muessig, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Behavior

Krista M. Perreira, Professor, Department of Social Medicine

Della Pollock, Professor, Department of Communication

Edward V. Rankus, Associate Professor, Department of Communication

Ruth Salvaggio, Professor Emerita, Departments of English and Comparative Literature and American Studies

Jeffrey Sonis, Associate Professor, Departments of Social Medicine and Family Medicine

Deborah Stroman, Associate Professor, Department of Health Behavior

Adam Versenyi, Professor, Department of Dramatic Art

Harry L. Watson, Atlanta Distinguished Professor in Southern Culture

Courtney G. Woods, Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering

‘Fix’ leadership

Regarding “Protesters topple Silent Sam Confederate statue at UNC” (Aug. 20): I’m not in favor of mobs, but the outbreak of massive protests that target symbols of power shows us how unresponsive North Carolina leaders are to the needs of their constituents.

In democracies, citizens have a way to petition for grievances, but North Carolina’s leadership is not interested in that. Start with the General Assembly’s 2015 law which eliminated local control over monuments. Is that democracy? People who are gerrymandered out of power have lost control of local issues. Everything that happens in North Carolina must be approved by two Republican legislative leaders from small towns in secret meetings with other Republicans.

Republicans have managed to eliminate any group or person that threatens their power. And they know that their voters will be looking closely at the ignominious fall of Silent Sam and blaming their own problems on “mobs.”

Moral: when leaders ignore legitimate issues, they get civil unrest. N.C. leadership created this mess by pretending it was going away. They need to fix it. Start by listening.

Donald Holmes

Chapel Hill



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