• 48°

Hundreds of UNC faculty members urge relocation of Silent Sam

By Susan Svrluga

The Washington Post

Hundreds of University of North Carolina faculty members sent a letter Wednesday to school officials urging them not to return to its original location a Confederate statue toppled by protesters.

Last month, protesters in Chapel Hill took down a memorial known as Silent Sam, but school officials have not said what will happen to it. On Friday, UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said the statue does not belong “at the front door” of the university, and 450 professors expressed their support for her words Wednesday.

“We, the undersigned faculty, commend as an important first step Chancellor Folt’s Aug. 31, 2018, statement that the Confederate monument does not belong ‘at the front door of a safe, welcoming, proudly public research university,'” they wrote.

“We are determined to have a strong voice in the decision about the disposition of the monument. We are also encouraged by recent statements by clergy and business leaders in Chapel Hill that make clear their unequivocal opposition to the reinstallation of the statue in its former location. The civic, economic, emotional, and cultural well-being of our community, as well as the university’s educational mission, will suffer continued damage by the presence of the monument on McCorkle Place,” the letter said.

James Moeser, chancellor emeritus, was one of the signatories. Moeser did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Some faculty members had urged Folt and UNC’s provost last week to be more assertive about not restoring Silent Sam, said Edwin Fisher, a professor in the Gillings School of Global Public Health.

There is debate within the faculty about whether the statue should be allowed anywhere on campus and about whether criminal and university charges should proceed against those accused of toppling Silent Sam. But hundreds felt Folt’s words Friday should be strongly supported – a consensus that the statue should not return to its former position of prominence at an entrance to the public university campus.

Fisher said many people, like him, “are embarrassed by the statue, feel that it detracts from the university’s reputation,” even as they think about the real harm it may do to people who aren’t white, “as it represents not just a historical oddity, but an active representation of themes of white supremacy and racism that are still rampant in our culture — witness Charlottesville last year.”

Last year in Charlottesville, Virginia, violence erupted as white supremacists and others rallied in support of a Confederate statue, and crowds gathered to counter their message.

Fisher said some faculty are concerned that pressure from the board of governors, which oversees the UNC System of schools statewide, and state legislators may make it difficult to move the statue elsewhere.

A spokesman for the board of governors did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.

The monument was erected in 1913 to honor graduates who died fighting for the Confederacy. In more recent decades, it has become a polarizing symbol and the target of protests, with some seeing it as a glaring relic from a racist past.

Other groups in Chapel Hill and on campus have spoken out in recent days against the statue being returned, Fisher said. So have 41 department chairmen at UNC and the Administrative Board of the Library, which passed a resolution indicating the monument should not be placed in any of its libraries.

Last week, supporters of the statue rallied around the base of the monument, and some have left flowers and other tokens of support for fallen soldiers.

Comments

Crime

Man charged after thieves rob would-be gun buyers of wallets, shoes

Crime

Blotter: Four added to sheriff’s most wanted list

High School

High school football: Some anxious moments, but Hornets win state title

Local

Photos: Salisbury High Hornets win big in 2AA championship game

Local

County manager outlines projections for the upcoming fiscal year budget, suggests uses for stimulus money

Business

Miami-based Browns Athletic Apparel opens second screen printing location in Salisbury

News

At funeral, fallen Watauga deputies remembered as ‘heroes’

Coronavirus

COVID-19 cluster identified at Granite Quarry Elementary

Coronavirus

More than half of North Carolinians have now taken at least one vaccine shot

Local

City hopes to cover expenses in 2021-22 budget with surplus revenue generated this year

Local

Fallen tree proves to be a blessing for local nonprofit Happy Roots

Local

Quotes of the week

Coronavirus

Health department drops quarantine time from 14 to 10 days

Crime

Blotter: More than $100,000 in property reported stolen from Old Beatty Ford Road site

Local

City fights invasive beetles by injecting trees with insecticide

Local

City names downtown recipients for federal Parks Service grant

China Grove

China Grove Town Council weighs 2021-22 budget priorities, supports buying body cameras

Education

Educators reflect on Teacher Appreciation Week

Education

Livingstone College wins $30,000 Home Depot grant

Education

Shoutouts

News

Shield-A-Badge With Prayer program enters 26th year, accepting volunteers to pair with officers

Education

COVID-19 infection, quarantine numbers in Rowan-Salisbury Schools reach new highs

High School

High school football: Offensive line came together for Hornets, who play for state title tonight

Local

Pro baseball: White makes pro debut and says, ‘It felt amazing to be out there’