Political banners outside Peabody removed with haste

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Peabody Hall houses UNC's School of Education.

Students made a statement about the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Education's silence on social justice issues outside of Peabody Hall Sunday night. 

Sean Hernández Adkins, a second-year doctoral student in the School of Education, said he and his colleagues gathered at 9 p.m. on Sunday to post 500 flyers with political messages on them around the building, under doors and in mailboxes. 

The fliers had statements including, "Silence is violence; Silent Sam, Violent Sam; Silent Educators, Violent Educators." Others urged readers to take a stand on political issues such as DACA, white supremacy or the Center for Civil Rights. 

Protesters also hung banners and wrote messages in sidewalk chalk in front of the building. All evidence of the protest disappeared by 9 a.m. Monday. 

“Some [banners] were posted quite high. I brought a ladder. We really wanted them to have some staying power,” Adkins said. “Peabody isn’t known for being spic-and-pan, so it seems a little beyond the call of duty to remove those so quickly.”

The protest came after building frustration among students in the School of Education. Students felt like something had to be done. The actions of the university strongly resembled their response to the Campus Y banners that were removed with haste in late August. 

“It seems like there is a strong disjoint between our explicit mission and what the administration is willing to do,” Adkins said about the school's passivity on political issues.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals repeal, Silent Sam protests and the recent litigation ban affecting the UNC Center for Civil Rights have been at the forefront of many students’ minds during the first month of classes. In this time, the only email the School of Education had released regarding social justice was in response to the Charlottesville violence. The Education School has otherwise remained silent on political and social issues. Adkins said students are frustrated with the school’s habitual silence. 

“It’s unacceptable for us and embarrassing to say that we are doctoral students at a very prestigious and highly ranked school of education that has a mission that says we want inclusion and equity, but when it comes down to actually defending that we get nothing,” Adkins said.  

When asked what the School of Education had to say about the protest, Mike Hobbs, director of communications for the school, said that their students are passionate about community issues, but did not comment on the protest specifically. 

“Our students are passionate," he said. "They are pursuing study and work in education because they care deeply about their communities and they care about tackling social injustices and inequities.” 

Between the protests surrounding Silent Sam and the more recent protest at Peabody Hall, students continue to engage in political discourse.

“We have invited students to share their concerns with school leadership," Hobbs said. "We are always seeking opportunities to do more to foster discussion around important and difficult issues facing our students and our society. We are holding discussion forums for that purpose.” 

Yet for students in the School of Education, discussion is not enough, Adkins said. Students want the school to take action that is visible.

The students involved in the protest are calling for the School of Education to speak out and publicly defend the values that they teach.

“Not saying anything is just as political as saying something," Adkins said. "Your silence is making a statement that you’re just OK with how things are.” 

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