‘To delay the reinstallation…encourages more violence by outside criminal elements…’
(Jane Stancill, The News & Observer) CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees met behind closed doors Tuesday morning to discuss legal and safety issues surrounding the toppling of the Silent Sam Confederate monument by protesters.
The board gathered briefly in open session, where Chancellor Carol Folt talked about a week of “intense emotion, the pain, the frustration and anger that’s being felt.”
She said she needs to focus on safety and the operations of the university, adding, “Our students and our faculty deserve no less.”
The chancellor also acknowledged that what happens next with the Confederate monument will have greater implications for the university.
“It has also brought the eyes of the nation on us,” Folt said. “That, of course, is adding urgency to our own determination to find a lawful and lasting path that will protect the public, protect the monument and allow us to return to what we are doing right now — our core mission of education, research and creating the next generation of leaders.”
Folt has been under growing pressure by students and faculty to keep the Confederate statue from returning to its pedestal at a main entrance of campus.
A flurry of statements and letters to Folt have asked her to move the statue. The Department of English and Comparative Literature posted a statement to its website that called upon university administrators “to house the fallen statue elsewhere, as should have been done long ago, and to renew their commitment to creating a just and inclusive campus.”
“One year ago, we unequivocally supported calls to remove the statue to a place where it could be properly contextualized. In our assessment, its history and its formerly prominent location on campus are at odds with the fundamental principles and ideals of UNC that stand for the inclusion and dignity of all,” the department’s statement said. “We cannot and do not support the ideas that it celebrates in the context of a public university today. Furthermore, we support our students’ rights to freedom of expression and freedom to protest.”
Folt reiterated that the university will take appropriate actions to deal with any criminal action by protesters. Eleven people have been charged in protests on Aug. 20, when the statue came down, and on Saturday, when protest groups clashed over Silent Sam.
“We know that the monument has been divisive for a long time,” Folt said, “but what happened on Monday was wrong. It was absolutely not the solution that we wanted.”
She also invoked the words of the late Sen. John McCain, who said: “We don’t hide from history. We make history.”
It’s unclear what the UNC system’s Board of Governors will do. That group has a meeting scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Chairman Harry Smith has said he wanted the campus decision-making process to play out.
Another Board of Governors member, Wilmington lawyer Thom Goolsby, has been adamant that the statue should be put back up pronto.
“To delay the reinstallation of the monument does nothing but put off the inevitable and encourages more violence by outside criminal elements,” Goolsby wrote in an email Monday to his fellow board members.
He also criticized the actions of police on Aug. 20, saying they were “highly derelict” in their duty, “by standing back and allowing these outside criminal elements to riot and destroy state property.” He called for a thorough outside “disciplinary investigation” of the UNC police department.
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