The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under law fired back at the UNC Board of Governors Tuesday after its chairman suggested the group would like to see the Silent Sam Confederate monument returned to the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill.
On Monday UNC Board of Governors Chairman Randy Ramsey criticized the national civil rights group, which recently filed to intervene in the legal settlement that saw the UNC System give the Silent Sam Confederate monument to the North Carolina division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans – along with $2.5 million.
“It’s irresponsible that the LCCRUL organization is working so hard to return Silent Sam to UNC-Chapel Hill, putting the safety of students, faculty, staff, and visitors at risk,” Ramsey said in a written statement. “Law enforcement experts have made it crystal clear: returning the monument to campus would pose serious public safety risks to students, faculty and staff. The lawful settlement approved by the court ensures the monument never returns to any county where a UNC System institution is located, and the UNC System and the Board will continue to defend solutions that protect public safety.“
Late Tuesday, the group released a statement calling out Ramsey’s statement as illogical and not in the best interest of UNC students.
“The BOG’s statement presents the false choice of giving the monument and $2.5 million to a pro-Confederate group or having the monument back on UNC’s campus,” said Kristen Clarke, the group’s president and executive director, said in a statement. “Neither North Carolina’s Monuments Act nor any other law requires the monument to be returned to campus. It is a public safety hazard, as the BOG acknowledges, and the Monuments Act explicitly exempts such hazards from its requirements. ”
“The Governor of North Carolina previously informed the BOG that the Monuments Act did not require the return of the monument to campus,” Clarke said. “As established by correspondence between Gov. Cooper and the University in 2017, the BOG and UNC could have removed the monument from campus years ago, when it became a threat to public safety. They chose not to. Instead, they chose to pursue an unlawful bargain with a pro-Confederacy group for the monument’s continued display and for the group’s efforts to be funded by $2.5 million from the University.”
“That bargain must be rescinded and UNC’s property returned to the University so that it can be used to further the education of its students,” Clarke said. “Neither the BOG nor UNC is acting to protect the interests of students, faculty or the University community in this matter, so the students and the faculty member whom the Lawyers’ Committee represents have asked the court to intervene so that they may protect those interests. We look forward to the hearing before the court on Friday, when the process to set aside the BOG’s misguided and unlawful bargain can begin.”