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UNC gives Silent Sam statue to the Sons of Confederate Veterans
University tosses in $2.5M gift for upkeep
 
Published Sunday, December 1, 2019 2:41 pm
by Jamey Cross | Media Hub

PHOTO | SCOTT LEWIS
The Confederate memorial known as Silent Sam has been the scene of protests for years on the UNC Chapel Hill campus. The UNC Board of Governors donated the statue to the N.C. Sons of Confederate Veterans along with a $2.5 million trust for its care and preservation.

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CHAPEL HILL — The University of North Carolina has given the controversial monument to the Confederacy known as Silent Sam to the N.C. Sons of Confederate Veterans, along with a $2.5 million charitable trust to be used for its care and preservation.


“This resolution allows the university to move forward and focus on its core mission of educating students,” Randy Ramsey, chairman of the UNC Board of Governors, said in a news release announcing the agreement.


But the decision sparked outrage across the UNC-Chapel Hill community and beyond. Students, alumni and state officials used Twitter to express their anger and disappointment with the settlement.

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“Silent Sam is not coming back to UNC — but somehow, UNC admin managed to find a way to make that terrible,” UNC-Chapel Hill Ph.D. student Margaret Maurer wrote.
The  UNC Black Congress said the monument will “harm another community” with UNC’s money.


“It is not up to (interim chancellor) Kevin Guskiewicz or UNC admin to determine when issues around Silent Sam are ‘resolved.’ That is up to the countless student and community members whose lives have been seriously wounded by the statue. Whose voices have been consistently spoken over and silenced,” the group tweeted.


N.C. Rep. Graig Meyer, a Democrat representing Orange County, wrote: “I’m glad the statue is finally going to be off UNC’s campus, but… we’re going to pay $2.5M so that a Confederate sympathy group can build it a permanent memorial? All because of the GOP’s stupid 2015 racism monument protection law.”


A former editor-in-chief of The Daily Tar Heel, Rachel Jones, said she’s disgusted.


“The solution to Silent Sam has never been to give $2.5M to Confederates to maintain this racist monument. What an insult to the brave students that did what UNC was too cowardly to do by removing it,” Jones tweeted.


The 8-foot-tall bronze statue stood on McCorkle Place on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill from June 2, 1913, until a group of protesters tore the monument from its pedestal on August 20, 2018. Since then, it’s been stored by the university in an undisclosed location.


Originally conceived by the N.C. Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the monument was designed to honor students and faculty who died fighting for the South in the Civil War. Regular protests began in 2011, as students and faculty said they were offended by a monument symbolizing the Confederacy. Others defended the monument as a symbol of history, honoring those who fought for the South.  


The decision to give the monument to the Sons of Confederate Veterans was announced Wednesday afternoon when most of the university’s offices and state government offices were closing for Thanksgiving. None of the principals involved in negotiating the settlement were available for comment Wednesday.


According to the news release from the UNC System, the decision comes after the Sons of Confederate Veterans filed a lawsuit against the UNC System and the Board of Governors. The three parties reached a settlement and a judge entered a consent judgment Wednesday.


In a campus-wide email sent Wednesday afternoon, UNC-Chapel Hill interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz expressed his “deepest appreciation” to those involved “for resolving this matter.” But he did not elaborate on the decision.


For the past year, Guskiewicz has repeatedly said that the statue should not be returned to UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus.
Under the settlement, the monument cannot be erected in any of the 14 counties with a UNC System institution. In addition to the care of the monument, the $2.5 million trust could be used to house it.


Meyer wrote in a tweet that he asked UNC officials where the $2.5 million would come from, and was told the university has non-state funds and that the chancellor was “committed” to ensuring university initiatives wouldn’t be affected.


But, Meyer wasn’t convinced.


“Those funds have to come from somewhere that could benefit students,” Meyer wrote.


The UNC settlement came the same day the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the city of Birmingham violated Alabama’s monument protection law when it placed a screen around a Confederate monument in August 2017.


According to the UNC release, the settlement complies with North Carolina monument laws.


Chapter 100 of the North Carolina General Statutes, signed into law in 2015, protects monuments, memorials, plaques and other markers that are on public property from removal, relocation or altercation without permission from the N.C. Historical Commission.


This settlement makes the safety of the university community a priority and allows the university and the UNC System to focus on their core missions, the news release said.
But, Guskiewicz may be premature in referring to the issue as resolved.


UNC-Chapel Hill Ph.D. student James Sadler, who has attended rallies and protests in support of anti-racist activists, said he finds this arrangement disgusting.


“The university’s reckoning with its white supremacists roots and its contributions to white supremacy… has not even started,” Sadler said in an interview.


“It shows to me that UNC doesn’t want to reckon with any of the damage it’s done, that it’s fine that other communities will now suffer with the presence of this monument, and it fails to recognize that this issue is not resolved for many students and community members around the area.” 


Lindsay Ayling has had an active voice in the Silent Sam debate. She also took to Twitter Wednesday: “When students and community members toppled Silent Sam and ridded our community of a rally point for white supremacists, UNC sent its police force to beat and arrest anti-racists. Now it’s giving $2.5 million to the racist org Sons of Confederate Veterans.”

She went on to encourage donors who had announced they’d be boycotting UNC to donate to the legal costs of “anti-racists” who had been arrested during protests.


In early 2019, after the Board of Governors took control of determining the monument’s fate, five members of the BOG – Darrell Allison, Jim Holmes, Wendy Murphy, Anna Nelson and Bob Rucho – were charged with finding a solution for the monument. The board delayed a decision on the statue’s future twice in the spring of 2019 before postponing it indefinitely and then coming to the decision announced Wednesday.


“The safety and security concerns expressed by students, faculty and staff are genuine, and we believe this consent judgment not only addresses those concerns but does what is best for the university, and the university community in full compliance with North Carolina law,” Holmes said in the news release.


Representatives with the Sons of Confederate Veterans could not be reached for comment. On the group’s website, its mission statement says that “remembering the bravery, defending the honor and protecting the memory of our beloved Confederate Veterans, which includes their memorials, images, symbols, monuments and grave sites for ourselves and future generations” is the group’s responsibility.


Now, the statue has been returned to descendants of soldiers who fought for the South in the Civil War, the ones who had it built and erected on UNC’s campus.


It’s an abrupt end to the monument to the Confederacy that stood at the gateway to the Chapel Hill campus for more than a century. It’s been the cause of rallies and arrests, and prayers and protests. It has drawn students and Confederate flag-bearers to its base. It’s rallied academics, historians, church leaders and politicians and the Daughters of the Confederacy to its cause, one side or the other.


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