Yesterday, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt announced her resignation in the midst of a standoff with the UNC Board of Governors over the return of the Silent Sam Confederate statue to campus.
She also further rankled the board by ordering the base of the statue, which was toppled by protesters, removed from its site at McCorkle Place.
Overnight, a crew removed the pedestal.
Governor Roy Cooper signaled his support for Folt in a statement early Tuesday.
“I appreciate the Chancellor’s actions to keep students and the public safe,” Cooper said in the statement. “North Carolina is welcoming to all, and our public university should reflect that.”
But UNC Board of Governors Chairman Harry Smith condemned the chancellor’s move in his own statement, which is likely to represent the sentiment of the conservative-dominated board.
“We are incredibly disappointed at this intentional action,” Folt said. “It lacks transparency and it undermines and insults the Board’s goal to operate with class and dignity. We strive to ensure that the appropriate stakeholders are always involved and that we are always working in a healthy and professional manner.”
Folt’s resignation came during an emergency closed session of the board, held via phone conference Monday, “to deliberate issues related to UNC-Chapel Hill’s leadership.”
That has fueled speculation that the board’s simmering tension with Folt and the UNC Board of Trustees over the future of the monument had come to a boil, forcing Folt to choose between defying the governing board of the UNC system or staying in her job.
The board has called another emergency closed session teleconference Tuesday at 1 p.m. “to discuss a confidential personnel matter.”
Folt will hold her own short telephone-only press conference at 11: 15 a.m. during which she will make a further statement and take some questions.
Last month Folt and the UNC Board of Trustees unveiled a plan to return the Confederate monument to the Chapel Hill campus, as the UNC general counsel concluded was mandated by a 2015 law intended to protect Confederate monuments.
The plan, which called for building $5.3 million UNC history center in which the statue and other UNC historical items would be displayed, was rejected by both the board and those who opposed the statue’s return.
Folt and the board members made clear, as she had said for months, they would prefer the statue not return to campus at all. The plan, they said, was an attempt to thread the needle of complying with the law and making the statue a less prominent part of the campus.
The board of governors appointed at ask force composed of board members Darrell Allison, Jim Holmes, Wendy Murphy, Anna Nelson and Bob Rucho to work with Folt and the school’s board of trustees on a new plan.
A statement of support for Folt from several board of trustees members following her resignation suggests that process reached an impasse almost from the beginning.
“As current officers of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees and a former chair who served with Chancellor Carol L. Folt, we support her decision to remove intact the base of the Confederate Monument and accept her decision to step down from her position,” the trustees wrote in the statement. “We thank Chancellor Folt for working tirelessly to elevate our University each and every day to serve the people of North Carolina and beyond.”
Some of Folt’s critics on the political left – frustrated she did not oppose the board of governors and condemn the monument earlier – continued those criticisms in the wake of her resignation Monday.
Hampton Dellinger, a former North Carolina Deputy Attorney General who last year threatened a federal lawsuit over the statue, took to Twitter with his thoughts.
On Tuesday morning, however, Dellinger applauded Folt’s follow-through in removing the statue’s remnants from campus.