Last Friday, the University of North Carolina Board of Governors rejected a proposal to house the Confederate ‘Silent Sam’ statue in a new history center, Inside Higher Ed reported. The statue was toppled and vandalized in August by protesters, who claimed it was a symbol of white supremacy.
University Chancellor Carol Folt and the board proposed spending $5 million for a history center to house the statue. Although Folt preferred to move the statue off campus, it would be difficult as North Carolina state law bars moving monuments away from college campuses. However, the board appears to believe that placing the statute back in its original location would invite more vandalism and it would be toppled again.
Now, some teaching assistants are on a grading strike to push for the statue to be removed from the campus, therefore punishing students for the administrators’ decisions (or lack of decision-making). Opponents of the statue are pushing the university to relocate the statue to an off-campus location, without taking into context the state law on monuments. The university’s English and Comparative Literature Department issued a statement condemning the statue, which said the following:
“The toppling of the statue known as ‘Silent Sam’ on August 20 is symbolically powerful and should remind us that our work is unfinished at our own institution of higher learning. We call upon the UNC administration and NC leaders 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.”
In short, while the University of North Carolina is still trying to move the controversial statue off campus the ultimate solution to this problem will depend on getting a consensus among university board members about the most favorable option that complies with state law.