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UNC responds to “Silent Sam” lawsuit threat, students boycott

Attorneys for The University of North Carolina responded late Friday to a threatened federal lawsuit from students [1]over “Silent Sam” – a Confederate monument on the Chapel Hill campus.

The university’s response [2] suggests students claiming that the monument creates a racially hostile learning environment take their complaint to the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office at UNC-Chapel Hill but says the university disagrees that they have a valid Civil Rights claim under Titles IV and VI.

Hampton Dellinger, the Durham attorney and former N.C. Deputy Attorney General working with students toward the complaint, penned a response of his own Friday:

“I am surprised that UNC is contesting the fact that Silent Sam creates a racially hostile environment. The case law is clear that even a single verbal or visual incident can cause a hostile environment and that Confederate symbols are evidence of racial harassment.  In light of these precedents, we believe the courts will conclude that a towering armed soldier dedicated to white supremacy and placed permanently in the middle of campus creates a hostile environment for some African American students. UNC claims to have contrary administrative guidance, but we have not seen it and the university has not identified it.  It is time for UNC to acknowledge federal law and focus on removal not resistance.”

Meanwhile, a separate group of students is organizing a boycott of UNC over “Silent Sam.” In a press release Friday, the group outlined their position:

“While we understand that UNC may not have unilateral authority to move Silent Sam, we do expect Chancellor Folt, as the leading representative of our UNC community, to vigorously advocate for the removal of Silent Sam and publicly acknowledge the statue’s connection to both white supremacy and racism. Every day that she continues not to do so, she is failing us.

The latest example of Chancellor Folt’s failure regarding Silent Sam is the fact that UNC did not petition the N.C. Historical Commission, prior to tomorrow’s meeting, for permission to remove Silent Sam from campus.UNC could have petitioned the Historical Commission, and should have done so. And Chancellor Folt should have been out front, leading the effort.

It is because of the failed leadership of Chancellor Folt and the UNC administration that we are urging all people of conscience to boycott UNC from now until October 18. By withdrawing our financial support, we can show the UNC administration that we are absolutely serious when we say we expect them to vigorously advocate for the immediate removal of that racist statue from our campus.”