Students Protest Empty UNC BOG Meeting, Silent Sam Settlement
UNC-Chapel Hill students demonstrated in the rain outside a nearly empty board room Friday to show their discontent with the UNC System Board of Governors’ decision to give a neo-Confederate group $2.5 million to preserve the Silent Sam monument. None of the members of the Board of Governors were physically present at their December meeting to hear the students’ chants.
"No payout, no BOG, no racist UNC," shouted the more than 60 students, alumni and local North Carolina residents who joined the demonstration.
UNC-Chapel Hill sophomore De'Ivyion Drew said she wants the Board of Governors to retract the settlement or for the UNC-Chapel Hill administration to take action to recover the $2.5 million.
"There's always time to make the right decision," Drew said. "So I implore the university to make the right decision."
Some students yelled "shame" at the few UNC officials entering the building. All members of the Board of Governors attended the meeting via phone.
The UNC Board of Governors announced in November it would hold its meetings this week by conference call, due to some members attending university graduations today. Protest organizers said they were not aware of that arrangement until after they had announced their plans to demonstrate.
A UNC system spokesperson announced earlier this week that Board of Governors Chair Randy Ramsey and UNC System Interim President Bill Roper would not hold their usual media availability following the board's meeting.
"It's just another example of their cowardice," said longtime Silent Sam protester and UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student Lindsay Ayling.
Questions have swirled around Chapel Hill since the UNC System announced its settlement with the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) over students’ Thanksgiving break. But the UNC System governors who approved the settlement have remained largely silent on the matter.
When approving the minutes for the November meeting at which the governance committee approved the settlement, the only member of the UNC Board of Governors to comment was Tom Fetzer, who asked for the record to note that he was not present at that meeting and did not vote. Board members Marty Kotis and Thom Goolsby asked in the board's Friday meeting for the UNC System to release more information about the negotiations with SCV that led to the settlement.
Newly appointed UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz has also called on UNC System leaders to give the university community more information. In a public letter addressed to Board Chair Randy Ramsey and UNC System Interim President Bill Roper, Guskiewicz wrote that he is “deeply concerned” about how SCV will use the funds.
A leaked letter from the leader of the North Carolina Division of SCV Kevin Stone said the group plans to use the funds to build a new headquarters. The letter also says UNC System attorneys negotiated with the Confederate group for months before reaching a consent judgment, settling a lawsuit SCV filed the same day the settlement was announced.
Guskiewicz urged the UNC System to ensure the dollars are used “in strict compliance with the court’s order.”
That order allows for spending to display the statue and to build a facility to support it, according to the consent judgment.
Guskiewicz has said he was not consulted in the settlement, but that he supports the Board of Governors’ decision to ensure the statue would not return to campus.
Some student and faculty protesters have called for Guskiewicz to condemn the Board of Governors’ settlement and to either take steps to recover the $2.5 million or resign.