Faculty and graduate teaching assistants at UNC-Chapel Hill have released final grades they were withholding to protest the proposed return of the Silent Sam Confederate monument to their campus.
Last week the UNC Board of Governors rejected a controversial proposal to build a $5.3 million UNC history center which would house the statue, which was toppled by protesters in August.
But the conservative-dominated Board of Governors also appointed a task force of their own members to help craft a new plan, due to the Board March 15. with Board Chairman Harry Smith saying any plan that removes the statue from campus permanently would violate state law designed to prevent that.
In an online statement, those organizing the grade withholding action said the move changes the way they are approaching their protest.
“Although we welcome the Board of Governors’ (BOG) rejection of the BOT’s Report, their decision does not guarantee a satisfactory long-term resolution,” the statement read. “The Confederate monument must never return to campus in any shape or form nor a center to its history be erected. We further express here our right to freely assemble and to practice our freedom of speech on a matter of great public concern.”
The statement went on to lay out their reasoning for releasing the grades and plans for further action in the new year:
The BOG’s rejection of the Report extends the timeline for deliberation over the disposition of the Confederate monument, requiring that a revised proposal be submitted in March 2019. For the StrikeDownSam Anti-RacistCoalition, this new timeline necessitates a new strategy; we recently released all grades for the fall 2018 semester, but will be in a strong position to continue our action in spring 2019 if the BOG, BOT, or members of the University administration decide to place UNC students at risk.
In the coming semester, undergraduate and graduate students will work together with faculty to plan further actions and to continue exerting pressure on the University. We denounce the BOG resolution that aims to“prescribe minimum sanctions including suspension, termination, and expulsion for individuals who engage in unlawful activity that impacts public safety,”including “inciting riots, resisting arrest, participation in a riotous act, and other acts of violence.” It is a naked attempt to intimidate dissenting students who are routinely punished by police for peaceful assembly and protest. We will continue to work collectively until the newly constituted committee develops amore honest and humane plan for our collective future. We are unwavering in our demand for a safe learning environment and resolute in our fight to eradicate white supremacy from our campus and community.
After last week’s rejection of the plan crafted by UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt and the school’s board of trustees, the chancellor reiterated that she and the trustees would like to see the statue moved off campus as well.
In perhaps the strongest language Folt has used during the controversy, she described the statue as a relic from another time that would never be accepted on a modern campus were it to be placed there today.
“We are the only university in this state that has anything closely resembling this statue,” Folt said.
“Put here more than one hundred years ago, our community is carrying the burden of an artifact, given to us by a previous generation in a different time,” she said. “The burden of the statue has been and still is disproportionately shouldered by African Americans. No university today would even consider placing such an artifact on their campuses.”