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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chancellor addresses the issue of Silent Sam with University trustees

 

Chancellor Carol L. Folt made the following comments to the University Board of Trustees on Nov. 16:

Yesterday, the Board held a Public Listening Session on the issue of Silent Sam. This was an important continuation in our board/campus conversations that started when I asked the Board to consider the issues around, what was then, Saunders Hall more than three years ago.

I want to thank everyone for their attendance yesterday – this room was packed – and I want to thank members of the press who also chose to attend and give this critical issue the attention it demands.

And, I want to thank the 28 speakers – especially our students – who spoke with candor, heartfelt and deep emotion on both sides of this issue.

Many expressed their deep pain – and fear – of what the Confederate Monument represents to them. Based everything we know –there is no question that the Monument was erected during a period where white supremacy, bigotry and racism were a strong message and that was conveyed publicly by those who supported the symbolism of the artifact and spoke at its dedication.

As I have been hearing, and as the board heard so powerfully yesterday, that symbolism is frightening, raw and painful to our our students and other members of the community every day. They have been saying for years that they love the University but feel the presence of Silent Sam – especially in such a prominent, front door location, is a betrayal of the values of inclusivity and welcome that we espouse for our community. We must accept this reality if we are to truly confront this issue.

When I convened the HTF following the Board’s decision to rename Saunders Hall “Carolina Hall,” I knew that the process of contextualizing our history would put us on a path that would literally bring us face to face with the age-old conundrum of what to do with Silent Sam.

One of the things we heard yesterday was a sincere wish – by many – to relocate the monument. We have been hearing so many good ideas and expect to have many more come to us in the coming weeks.

I would like to reiterate: If I had the authority, in the interest of public safety, I would move the monument to safer location on our campus where we can preserve, protect and teach from it. What I heard yesterday, only reinforced that belief.

I understand the frustration that people want to action now, but we’re going to continue to follow the process Chairman Cochrane and I have been referring to. The board understands the urgency and the need to explore all options. I know we will hear many great ideas, and I want to consider all of those, too.

I want to close by thanking Chair Cochrane and our Board members for their unwavering commitment to continue these conversations with our community.