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UNC faculty, teaching assistants withhold final grades over return of “Silent Sam”

Nearly 80 faculty and teaching assistants at UNC-Chapel Hill are pledging to withhold this semester’s final exam and assignment grades unless the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees abandons a plan to bring return Confederate statue known as “Silent Sam” to the campus.

The move could prevent more than 2,000 final grades from being logged.

With finals happening this week on campus and final grades due December 17th, members of the UNC administration met with graduate students Friday morning for a tense discussion they hoped would defuse the situation.

Bob Blouin, executive vice chancellor and provost and Kevin Guskiewicz, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, sent an e-mail Thursday to attempt to dissuade faculty and graduate students from supporting the action. The e-mail warned of legal ramifications.

“We’re trying not frame it as a ‘strike’ but a non-violent protest action,” said Danielle Dulken, a PhD candidate in the American Studies department helping to organize the move. “The work is still being done, the grading is still being done. But the grades are being withheld. Because we’re a large workforce for the university and we provide so much of the labor, this is something we felt we could flex, so to speak.”

The faculty and teaching assistants are making their pledge through a locked online poll. They have pledged to release the grades once:

1) The Board of Trustees’ abandons its proposals to return the monument to campus and create a “mobile force platoon” to deal with protests at UNC schools

2) The UNC Board of Governors holds a listening session with the campus community.

The number of those pledged to withhold grades continues to grow, with updates through the @StrikeDownSam twitter handle.

Thirty faculty and graduate students from the School of Education released a statement Thursday supporting those who take place in the withholding of grades and discouraging the university from retaliating against them. They also pledge not to teach the first week of the Spring 2019 semester if the Board of Governors adopts the proposal to return the monument to campus.

Their statement will continue gathering signatures of support until December 14.

The UNC Board of Governors will discuss the fate of Silent Sam at its meeting next week. One of the board’s more conservative members has already rejected the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees plan to move the monument to a new campus history center as “cowardice.” Several members of the board have insisted that the statue be returned to its original site at McCorkle Place or, as a 2015 law states, to a place of similar prominence.

8 Comments


  1. Rebecca King

    December 7, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    I am a public school educator here in NC and a parent of a student slated to graduate on the 16th from UNC. I am appalled that professors would seek to withhold grades from students. Who does this punish? The students. Not professional at all from this educator’s perspective. If you refuse to teach, don’t punish my child or others because of it. Give them their hard-earned grades. I will be livid if her grades are withheld because someone is offended. The statue is a part of history, and if you don’t like it, let it be a reminder to not allow those things to happen again.

  2. Pamela

    December 7, 2018 at 11:11 pm

    To bully is defined as, “use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.” These TA’s are nothing more than bullies – using the powerless students as pawns to attempt to get their way. They are adding stress to students that are already super stressed during exam time. They should be ashamed. Funny how they are offended by what they believe Silent Sam represents but not by their own abhorrent actions. A true protest would be to quit the university they are so disappointed in.

  3. Catherine

    December 8, 2018 at 1:15 am

    @Rebecca, the thing is, “those things” already are and have been happening, can you tell me when it stopped? One difference now is that we hear about things sooner, louder than we have before.

    When & how do things change?
    When we choose or are forced to change; and sometimes, that includes offending someone. Even someone who isn’t used to being offended. There’s an opportunity here to listen to each other, but are people willing? We’ve heard “protect our history,” but what about our version of that same story? The Sons of the University and/or Nation who have fought and died [in various wars] for their country’s beliefs? The ones who returned from War and were still treated as second-class citizens or worse?

    As a student, I definitely understand how you/your daughter feel about receiving final grades–and moving on with your lives, hopefully to be and do great things in the world. But while we’re here, isn’t it important to consider those who will come after us? What will they say/learn about us in this moment?

    Given the campus community’s responses, we should be seeking a better outcome instead of rushing to close the door on this conversation. We should not be using this unique opportunity to merely support some prior initiative. This should not be a moment where checking off the to-do list in order to call a task ‘complete’ takes priority over doing what is Right, Equitable, and/or Just. Neither the status quo nor the decision we received this week are enough. Especially for an institution that touts diversity and inclusivity. For who?

    So, if this act gets the administration’s attention, allows for [another?] serious public talk, and results in better decisions about the statue’s placement and how we tell history accurately, then it will have been worthwhile, right? In my opinion, yes. Besides, the students’ work has been done and the grads have been earned. This decision to not report grades [will hopefully] convince the administration to hear, to listen, to understand. To care. To seek the best outcome.

    Ultimately, we will see where The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill really stands–considering our special history, and, who we SAY we are–regarding what matters more after 225 years of leadership.
    #GDTBATH

  4. Melissa Gobble

    December 9, 2018 at 4:39 am

    all of those who “withhold” should be fired!!!

  5. abcde

    December 9, 2018 at 7:53 am

    Hi Rebecca King,
    Sorry, but your precious snowflake’s grade is not the issue of importance here. Attitudes like yours are evidence that the faculty/grad students are making the right decision. We hope you’re able to stop crying about it soon.

  6. Lynn

    December 9, 2018 at 9:57 am

    No student is harmed by a grade not being posted. As a professor for 20+ years, I wholeheartedly support this peaceful protest.

  7. Jeff Adams

    December 10, 2018 at 8:21 pm

    The teaching assistants (and professors?) who refuse to follow the terms of their contracts and submit their grades should be terminated, or at the very least not receive pay and benefits until they do the jobs they chose to accept. If fired, they should be on the hook for the tuition waivers they eagerly accepted when they took on their positions. ANYONE who would use students and their grades as pawns is too screwed up to be teaching on the first place. That said, that abomination of a
    statue does not belong on campus. If the teaching assistants were truly offended, they would not have chosen to enroll and work at UNC in the first place. But I see this more as an attention gathering tactic by a bunch of narcissists unable to accept responsibility for their own actions.

  8. John

    December 11, 2018 at 5:20 am

    So Lynn you are saying then is this is a useless exercise to draw attention by saying no student will be harmed by no grades not being posted.I personally don’t have a horse in this race and could careless if the statue is back or not. Faculty and teaching assistants at UNC-Chapel are refusing to do the job they are paid to do simple as that.

    What they are doing is “bullying” and “abusing” the students by not posting the final grade because it may not matter to them but I am sure it matters to the student and their loved one very much. The students themselves have no control over this so let’s just pick on them instead of the ones making these choices.

    Instead they are teaching the students that if you want to protest something then pick on someone who can’t fight back and make no sacrifice yourself personally.

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