‘We do want to get this right, and we believe we have…’
(Jane Stancill, The News & Observer – Raleigh, N.C.) UNC-Chapel Hill officials recommend that Silent Sam, the Confederate statue torn down four months ago, be located at a new indoor building on campus for the single purpose of displaying it.
The preference would be for an off-campus location, said UNC Chancellor Carol Folt, but state law does not allow it.
The recommendation followed an hour-long closed session meeting by the Board of Trustees on Monday morning with police presence. The university evaluated 20 potential sites, and public safety was the most important criterion, Folt said.
The plan, months in the making, was developed within the parameters of the state law that limits options for relocation of public memorials, Folt said.
“We do want to get this right, and we believe we have,” Folt said before the closed-door discussions. Significant issues likely to be discussed include the cost to protect the statue and public safety wherever the statue is ultimately placed.
Faculty leaders and a group of African Americans said the statue does not belong anywhere on the university campus. In October, the university’s Faculty Council passed a resolution calling for the permanent removal of the statue.
“Returning the statue to the UNC-Chapel Hill campus would reaffirm the values of white supremacy that motivated its original installation,” the faculty resolution said. “Moreover, to do so would undermine the physical security of all members of our community.”
Rumors that the statue could be placed in UNC’s Wilson Library drew opposition from library boards and others who say its presence would endanger special collections and create a hostile learning environment.
Since the statue’s toppling, numerous forums and meetings have been held at the university to come up with alternative options for the statue. On Monday, Folt thanked faculty, staff, students and the public for providing input on what to do with the toppled statue.
“These comments that we have received have been incredibly powerful, some of them have been so touching, and what I have learned from that is how many people truly do love this university,” Folt said. “That is such a responsibility but it’s really quite wonderful. We’ve listened to you, we’ve heard you, we’ve been working very hard.”
The board’s meeting Monday was on the day of the deadline to send a final recommendation to the UNC system’s Board of Governors before its Dec. 14 meeting. At least one member of the system governing board has spoken out to say the statue should be put back up on its pedestal on McCorkle Place, at a major entrance to campus.
Folt has said that the statue should not be “at the front door of a safe, welcoming, proudly public research university.”
Complicating the picture is a 2015 state law that generally bars the removal of historic objects of remembrance on state property. The law limits the options for relocating a monument, though it does allow removal to preserve an object or to make way for construction. The law does not address a case of a monument having been forcibly moved, as in the case of the Aug. 20 protest that brought down Silent Sam.
If a monument is removed, the law states that it “shall be relocated to a site of similar prominence, honor, visibility, availability” within the same jurisdiction.
(c)2018 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.