UNC Board Of Governors: UNC Leaders Have Until Nov. 15 To Decide Fate Of Silent Sam

Aug 28, 2018

File photo from Tuesday, August 21, 2018 of the pedestal of the Silent Sam statue without the Confederate monument.
Credit Elizabeth Baier / WUNC

Updated 2:55 p.m. | Aug. 28, 2018

The Board of Trustees at UNC- Chapel Hill has until November 15 to decide the fate of Silent Sam, a Confederate monument that was recently toppled by protesters.

The directive comes from the UNC Board of Governors, which met today in closed session to discuss last week's protest that toppled Silent Sam. 

The resolution calls for "a plan for a lawful and lasting path that protects public safety, preserves the monument and its history, and allows the University to focus on its core mission of education ..."

The statewide board and the Chapel Hill trustees held separate meetings behind closed doors to discuss legal options for dealing with the aftermath of the statue's toppling on Aug. 20.

Before the resolution was passed, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt told her trustee board that the statue known as "Silent Sam" has been divisive, but tearing it down wasn't the solution.

The protest that brought the statue down "has also brought the eyes of the nation on us. And that of course is adding urgency to our own determination" to come up with a plan for the statue, she said.

Every Board of Governors member who joined the meeting voted in favor of the resolution except for Thom Goolsby. The lawyer and former state legislator has argued the statue should be swiftly returned to its pedestal in the quadrangle known as McCorkle Place.

"I cannot support the motion as it is written. I believe the time frame is too long especially in light of the violence, the ongoing threats and the continuing danger on our college campuses," he said before the vote.

The Board of Governors also approved an external review of the university's preparation for the protest and the police response.

The statue was yanked down on Aug. 20 after several hundred demonstrators gathered on the Chapel Hill campus, protesting what they consider its racist symbolism. They raised banners to conceal people tying the rope, and marched into the streets to draw officers away from the statue, according to videos. Officers also were less confrontational than they were at a similar protest a year ago.

So far, three people accused of helping tear the statue down face misdemeanor charges of rioting and defacing a public monument. Arrest warrants said they damaged it by "pulling it down from its base," but the warrants don't elaborate on what else investigators know about how protesters executed their plan.

One of the three is scheduled to appear in court Thursday and the other two next week. A fourth protester was charged with misdemeanor counts of resisting officers and wearing a mask before the statue came down. Seven others face charges related to a protest that happened on Saturday, after the statue's toppling. Several appeared in court Monday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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