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UNC Board Of Governors Reject Latest Proposal For 'Silent Sam'

Silent Sam Confederate monument
Jasmin Herrera

The UNC Board of Governors declined a proposal to build a $5.3-million education center to house the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The statue was pulled down from its pedestal near the entrance of UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus by protesters in August. The university and board have been unable to come to a decision about what to do with the controversial statute and have instead opted to have the board appoint several of its members to work with UNC’s Board of Trustees and Chancellor Carol Folt to find a solution. That group is expected to report back with a solution by March 15, 2019.

Chairman Harry Smith Jr. cited student safety and the use of state funds for the $5.3 million proposed building as the reason the board couldn’t take up the proposal.

“The goal here is nothing more than to get it right,” Smith Jr. said. “And so we want to make sure that we take the time, energy, and effort to work in [concert with] and in complete partnership with the leadership team on campus in both the trustees and administration.”

The education center also had a proposed cost of $800,000 a year for upkeep -- it would have held Silent Sam and other objects from U-N-C history with context.

Instead, the Board of Governors appointed several members to work with Chancellor Folt and the Trustees to provide another solution to the board by March 15 next year. It’s possible that they could take on the same proposal with some changes, but chairman Smith Jr. said the cost to taxpayers was difficult to consider. 
This afternoon, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt released a statement saying she was thankful for the opportunity to spend more time, "to explore more options to develop the best possible plan to relocate the Confederate Monument."

Some members on the Board of Governors had been vocal in their opposition to the proposed plan -- two said it went against a 2015 state law that requires objects of remembrance stay in their location or be moved to locations of similar prominence. 
In the last couple weeks, some graduate students who work as teaching assistants proposed an effort to withhold final grades from the University until the statue is permanently removed from campus.
Others including students athletes and graduates like Vince Carter and Jerry Stackhouse have weighed in, saying they don’t want the statue back on campus.
In a news conference this afternoon, UNC’s head basketball coach, the normally tight-lipped Roy Williams, said he was open to his players expressing their opinion on the issue.
He also weighed in, saying he doesn’t like having such a divisive object on campus.
“I wish we didn’t have a situation where we were putting him back on campus,” Williams said.