Commentary, Higher Ed

UNC system’s “Silent Sam” deal gets more rotten every day

Hundreds gathered on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill this year to celebrate the first anniversary of the toppling of the Confederate monument known as “Silent Sam.”

For a moment, the UNC system’s rotten and getting rottener deal to ship off felled Confederate Silent Sam with the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) might have seemed evidence of the Board of Governors’ obliviousness.

Obliviousness to what? Common sense, perception, relevance, history. Perhaps all of the above.

But as we learn more about the skull-and-dagger machinations that yielded Thanksgiving week’s surprise visit from the SCV — it’s like your racist uncle stopped by to argue with you during the holiday meal — if there is anyone remaining that believes the board to have been simply aloof, they may soon think otherwise.

As Policy Watch’s Joe Killian reported Tuesday, board members, in addition to their $2.5 million deal with the SCV, paid these anti-history marauders (ahistorical is too gentle a description, these folks are opposed to history) $1 shy of $75,000 to “secure an agreement the group would not display ‘any Confederate flags, banners, or signs before, after, or in conjunction with any group event, meeting, or ceremony on the campus of or property controlled by the UNC System … for five years.'”

(Warning to the board: Confederate symbols won’t be any more palatable in five years. I think. I hope.)

That $1 difference is key because it allowed board members to duck approval by the state’s top-ranking lawyer, Attorney General Josh Stein.

Yes, Stein is a Democrat, and this hyper-partisan board is every bit a Republican cudgel. But their desire to avoid Stein’s review speaks volumes. Board members knew that the settlement, not to mention the bonkers legal theory used to justify the SCV’s claims to ownership of the statue, reeked.

This board knew what it was doing was extraordinarily polarizing, and it hoped to minimize the damage somehow.

Stein condemned the deal last week, calling it an “excessive” amount to rid the UNC system of Sam. And his office’s spokeswoman, Laura Brewer, went one further, adding that the board “negotiated this deal entirely on its own, sidelining our office.”

There is, of course, the obvious point as well that board members dumped the news on the afternoon before Thanksgiving in some vain hope that reporters would be too busy downing pumpkin pie to notice.

Policy Watch is still sorting through the documents unloaded this week by the UNC system, so stay tuned for more updates.

One Comment


  1. Bill Garrity

    December 18, 2019 at 8:00 am

    Stein would have been all over that deal. He specializes in low-level corruption.

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