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.

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