The Community Issue: Staff, faculty and community members

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Our front page of the Sept. 4 print edition of The Daily Tar Heel, in which we published all of the letters we received regarding Silent Sam.

For our Labor Day edition and in light of recent events on campus concerning Silent Sam, we've dedicated most of our print edition for Sept. 4 to publishing the many letters we've received concerning the Confederate monument. 

Read our Opinion Editor and Editor-in-Chief's columns for the issue here and here. Letters from professors and community members are below (click here for letters from students and alumni):

Faculty/staff:

Center for Civil Rights and Silent Sam discourse entertwined

TO THE EDITOR: 8/28

It's no coincidence that Silent Sam remains on campus while the UNC Board of Governors is likely to silence the work of the Center for Civil Rights at its board meeting on Sept. 8th.

Silent Sam teaches us that white supremacy is alive and well and that people of color, especially African Americans, don't count. Telling the Center's lawyers to end litigation sends the same message—that the University shouldn't provide legal services to low-wealth communities of color.

It's time to take an unequivocal stand against white supremacy and the symbols that uphold it. Let's demand that the UNC Board of Governors preserve the CCR and that University leaders help us to finally put Silent Sam to rest.

Sherryl Kleinman

Professor, Sociology

Maria DeGuzman

Professor, English and Comparative Literature

Folt and trustees should take action

TO THE EDITOR: 8/28

I am writing to urge Chancellor Folt and the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees to take immediate action to remove the Silent Sam statue and reconsider the moratorium on the renaming of campus buildings. We are at a critical moment in the history of our campus; visionary and courageous leadership is needed now more than ever. As someone who has been on the UNC faculty for over twelve years, I am dismayed by the drastic change in the campus climate related to issues of diversity and social justice in recent years. When I first arrived on campus, there were intense discussions of the newly-installed Unsung Founders Memorial and the George Moses Horton dormitory, which was renamed for an enslaved African-American poet who sold his writings to UNC students. Fast forward twelve years and we are now embroiled in avoidable, albeit painful discussions and protests about a statue that has been the source of controversy for generations of UNC students and faculty. As a faculty member of color, it is disheartening to have University leaders who do not seem to understand the daily trauma that students, staff, and faculty experience by having to live, learn, and work at a campus that continues to uphold, maintain, and even protect, statues, as well as building and street names that immortalize slaveholders and white supremacists. All the while, UNC proclaims itself to be the “University of the People.” “Which people?” I ask.

Professor Kia Caldwell

African, African American, and Diaspora Studies

Professor examines lack of diversity on campus

TO THE EDITOR: 8/27

Silent Sam/Jim Crow/New Jim Crow,

While many have correctly pointed to the shameful connection between the erection of Silent Sam and the Jim Crow regime of racial segregation, we need to remember Michelle Alexander’s challenge to uncover continuities between the Jim Crow era and our own, which she calls the “New Jim Crow”. But wait. Isn’t Chapel Hill a bastion of liberal diversity and inclusion, as Chancellor Folt claims ad nauseum? From the grin on Silent Sam’s face you might suspect it’s not. With Chapel Hill as its center, 13 percent of Orange County is African-American while Orange County’s prison population (in country, state and federal jails) is between 65-75 percent Black according to local public defenders. And UNC? The incoming frosh classes have been 8-9 percent Black, about one third of the African-American population of North Carolina. The New York Times of 8/25 (“Affirmative Action Yields Little Progress on Campus for Blacks and Hispanics”) claims the percentage of Blacks and Latinx at UNC-CH has been shrinking since 1980—Tar Heels are paler now than they were in the 1970s. This whitening has occurred while North Carolina itself is growing more diverse. We should see the self-congratulatory messaging of UNC diversity (and Chapel Hill inclusivity) from senior administrators as actually a teargas smokescreen for a new insidious form of white supremacy; a Tar Heel New Jim Crow. Slamming Sam’s face to the ground is just the beginning of a long struggle for justice.

Prof. Mark Driscoll

Asian Studies and Global Studies

Professor examines Folt and Cooper interaction

TO THE EDITOR: 8/23

What’s Going On?

The University was handed a get out of jail free card by Governor Roy Cooper—and declined to use it.  WTF?

Even more baffling is the fact that we requested the card.  Spurred by a letter from Chapel Hill mayor Pam Hemminger, someone (I assume it was our Chancellor, Carol Folt, but do not know what transpired behind the scenes) managed a feat of unalloyed diplomatic brilliance: a letter to the governor co-signed by Margaret Spellings, president of the UNC system, Carol Folt, Lou Bissette, chair of the system’s Board of Governors, and Haywood Cochrane, chair of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees.  That letter, citing safety concerns, asked for a ruling about excepting Silent Sam from the 2015 law forbidding the removal of historical monuments on public land.

The Governor responded swiftly and unambiguously, authorizing Silent Sam’s removal.  I fully expected to arrive on campus Tuesday morning and find that UNC, in a move echoing recent actions at the University of Texas, had removed the statue during the night.  Instead, the statue was surrounded by a double row of fences and a sign was posted stipulating proper behavior in its presence. And then the University, later in the day, turned its back on the ruling it requested, and stated it didn’t agree with the Governor’s interpretation of the law, even while agreeing that campus would be safer without the Confederate memorial. 

The mind reels.  The chief Executive officer of the state tells you that a certain action is legitimate and lawful.  But you decide he might be wrong.  What could motivate such a decision?  Clearly, if the governor gives you the go ahead, you are not going to be prosecuted by his branch’s attorney general if you proceed.  The legislature will, doubtless, be unhappy, but they have no prosecutorial powers.  True, the University could, I guess, be sued over the matter, and could suffer at the hands of a vindictive legislature somewhere down the line.  But should such possible ill effects over-rule immediate safety concerns, not to mention the poisonous message the statue sends every day?  I don’t think so. 

Meanwhile, the administration is engaged in a petty squabble with the Campus Y over the posting of political banners.  The Chancellor’s initial communique in response to events in Charlottesville included an appended statement that declared an absolute right to free speech on this campus.  Yet now her administration is relying on invoking bureaucratic minutia to take down the Y’s signs.

Finally, as one last demonstration of a determination to act in mysterious and secretive ways, we get the announcement of a new provost.  The move took everyone on campus by surprise.  What’s worse: we get a new provost with a complete abrogation of any procedure for his appointment.  No naming of an interim, no formation of a search committee, no public meetings with finalists for the position, no consultation with anyone on campus. 

The Chancellor is acting like a tinpot autocrat.  On the one hand, afraid of her own shadow, she can’t act decisively when she is handed a green light by the Governor. On the other hand, she has isolated herself from the university community, interacting with us through statements that it takes a Talmudic scholar or a Kremlinologist to decipher, and embracing non-transparency.  What’s going on?  Damned if I know.

Here’s my message to Carol Folt.  We— the faculty, students and staff— of this university are your partners in the educational mission of this great university.  We are not dangerous, unruly and unpredictable subjects who need to be managed.  Stop being afraid of us and start working with us.

John McGowan

Anna H. and John W. Hanes Distinguished Professor of English

Veteran professor examines issues of race

To the Editor: 8/24

My younger brother and I each served in the US Army in Germany in the 1950s-60s during the Cold War when tensions were very high between Soviet Russia and the US and its allies.  I arrived in 1961 at my post at the US Army Hospital in Landstuhl, West Germany, which was only some 400 miles west of the newly erected Berlin Wall that separated the enslaved peoples of the Soviet east from the free world to the west.  The Wall, and the free world’s unfaltering response to it, were the beginning of the moral and economic bankruptcy of the Soviet Union that led to its collapse in 1989-91 and to the ending of communist dictatorships in East Germany, Poland and other eastern European countries.

Our two older brothers served in combat in World War II in the 1940s in the fight against Nazi oppression and genocide.  One was a B24 navigator who flew many perilous bombing missions over German from a base in England and one was wounded by German 88 shrapnel as an infantryman in France after D-Day.  Our father and two of his brothers served in combat in France in the final US and allied offensive against the Germans that ended World War I on November 11, 1918.

I am daily reminded of what the defeat of Hitler’s Nazis in 1945 meant to the world and the US by the presence of a vibrant 93-year-old neighbor, most of whose Jewish family in Poland were killed by the Nazis. She survived by hiding in a Catholic family’s farmhouse attic for 22 months. After the war, she and her husband became immigrants to the US and then US citizens, while raising a family who has contributed significantly to this nation.

During the 20th century tens of millions of young men, like the seven brothers in two generations of my family, served in the military of the US and its allies.  The ultimate sacrifices of millions of them are affirmed by the military cemeteries such as those across Europe, at Arlington and at Pearl Harbor. 

Their service and sacrifices led the US and its allies to victory over global tyranny in World Wars I and II and in the Cold War, while the United States of America became the most powerful and respected world leader in human history.

The fragile and interrelated nature of our nation’s domestic and international affairs were deliberated by John Jay, one of America’s visionary Founding Fathers and the first Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, in a Federalist essay in 1787. He argued convincingly against a proposal for several nations of adjacent states on the American continent and for a single United States of America, which was established by the 1789 US Constitution that has served as a guiding light for our nation ever since:

“But whatever may be our situation, whether firmly united under one national government, or split into a number of confederacies [nations], certain it is, that foreign nations will know and view it exactly as it is; and they will act toward us accordingly. If they see that our national government is efficient and well administered, our trade prudently regulated, our militia properly organized and disciplined, our resources and finances discreetly managed, our credit re-established, our people free, contented and united, they will be much more disposed to cultivate our friendship than provoke our resentment. If, on the other hand, they find us either destitute of an effectual government (each State doing right or wrong, as to its rulers may seem convenient), or split into three or four independent and probably discordant republics or confederacies, one inclining to Britain, another to France and a third to Spain, and perhaps played off against each other by the three, what a poor, pitiful figure will America make in their eyes! How liable would she become not only to their contempt but to their outrage, and how soon would dear-bought experience proclaim that when a people or family so divide, it never fails to be against themselves.“

If one substitutes today’s China and Russia for Britain, France and Spain, the world powers of 1787, then Jay’s advice about our international relationships applies equally well today.

When Mr. Trump was inaugurated I wished him success since we have only one President at a time and I have the upmost respect for the American Presidency.

I can well understand why his first months as President have been frustrating and challenging after his financially successful leadership for several decades of a business enterprise with apparently no independent board of directors and no shareholders other than immediate family members. 

On January 20, 2017, however, he became President of the nation with the largest economy in the world, and became Commander in Chief of the world’s most powerful and sophisticated military force.  He assumed leadership responsibility not only for the almost 63 million citizens who voted for him but for all 320 million US citizens, who are now his “shareholders” and who will be affected directly or indirectly by all the decisions he makes on their behalf.  He is also now directly responsible for an Executive Branch which has wide-ranging resources and numerous people to help him govern. 

He now has a 535-person “board of directors” (Congress) who share the responsibility with him to approve budgets for the government and to pass new laws or modify old laws.   And he has joined a tripartite federal government that includes an independent Judicial Branch that is charged with monitoring the legality of actions taken by the President, the Executive Branch and the Congress.

Our nation also has a free and independent press that for better or worse since George Washington’s time has monitored, reported and editorialized on the function of the individuals who have been elected to govern this exceptional and still evolving American experiment in democracy.

The President’s tweets have undoubtedly been enjoyed and cheered by many, but tweets of 140 characters each can only spread resentments and discord when used for diplomatic negotiations or policy making. 

The wider consequences of his tweeting, his spontaneous pronouncements and many of his policy changes have distanced him from many in the US government he needs to carry out his policies.  They have also alienated many of the US’s allies around the world and have emboldened our international adversaries. 

To paraphrase John Jay’s 1787 words, “what a poor, pitiful figure America has become in the eyes of other nations and how liable have we become to their contempt and outrage.”

Many hoped that the frustrations of the President in his first months would be used as lessons about the changes that were needed to unite and govern this American democracy that has been envied around the world for well over two centuries.  In spite of recent changes in his advisors he has daily demonstrated his inability or unwillingness to help achieve our Founding Fathers’ dream of a “free and united” people and an “efficient and well administrated” United States government.  I thus respectfully urge the President to consider resignation as the most responsible and honorable course of action to save the Presidency, our democracy and our world from catastrophe.

William W.  McLendon

Professor emeritus, UNC School of Medicine

Community:

Don't enlist Confederates in the today's war

TO THE EDITOR:  8/16

In 2015 — after a white supremacist massacred nine people at a black church in South Carolina — the General Assembly passed a law blocking local governments from removing them without the state’s permission. There are about a hundred monuments to the Confederacy in North Carolina. They weren’t erected immediately after the war to honor the fallen; rather, most were built decades later to send a message to African Americans about who was really in charge. “Silent Sam” is a memorial to the 321 UNC alumni who died during the Civil War. During its dedication, former Confederate soldier and industrialist Julian Carr recalled that just one hundred yards away, he had “horse-whipped a Negro wench, until her skirt hung in shreds, because upon the streets of this quiet village she had publicly insulted and maligned a Southern lady.” Confederate monuments have always been symbols of white supremacy. The heyday of monument building, between 1890 and 1920, was also a time of extreme racial violence, as Southern whites pushed back against what little progress had been made by African-Americans. Take it down.

Let the dead lie still in their graves. They already fought in one war. Don’t enlist them for the one you’re fighting today.

Gloria Faley

Chapel Hill

Resident hopes for logic

TO THE EDITOR: 8/21

I’m torn and I’ve got a feeling I’m not alone. Given all of the recent protesting of Confederate statues, I keep asking myself whether the Silent Sam Statue should stay or go? Why it should go is because it is a symbol of past slavery, oppression, and persecution, and is offensive to many people; displaying it on public lands sort of adds insult to injury. On the other hand, the statue is a symbol of historical fact, and when we as a society go down the road of trying to erase facts we simply don’t like is certainly dangerous and fascist in its own right; having it on public land has allowed me to see it as an educational artifact very conducive to further thought and learning. Whatever comes of Sam, I hope any decisions are not based on raw emotion but are carefully reasoned, considerate, and arising from diverse viewpoints.

Rob Daleiden

Chapel Hill

Police are unfairly disrespected by students

TO THE EDITOR: 8/29

I watched in amazement the video from the "Silent Sam" protests on campus. The group was chanting the same line as the communist group, Workers World Party, who was responsible for taking down the Confederate statue at the old Durham County courthouse. "Cops and the Klan go hand in hand". What would inspire the young students to use the same meme as the WWP — unless the protest was instigated by the WWP?

Durham is the same majority minority city as Houston. In Durham, police officers protect more black people every single day than any other group. I know, my 24 yr. old son is one of them. Would these students, with little or no real world experience, explain to me how their chant helps anyone? Does their collectivist chant mimicking that of communists who are responsible for the deaths of millions across the world save any lives? How about in Houston? Was the police officer who died today leaving his home to help with rescues basing his decisions on whom to rescue based on race? Absolutely not.

Would the black citizens of Houston prefer that the police department didn't help during an epic flood? Do the young women of UNC prefer that there is no police department to call if they are attacked? Do any students actually understand why they are smearing an entire profession? I doubt it.

Janie Wagstaff

Durham, NC

Rejection of liberalism is good

TO THE EDITOR: 8/28

It's rather humorous that UNC-CH students are only now demonstrating for the removal of "Silent Sam."  Where were they during Obama's presidency?  It only shows you politics and liberal political bias are the motivations.

Trump handily beat Clinton in part because a lot of decent moral people are getting really fed up with liberal judgmentalism, liberal self-righteousness, liberal name-calling, liberal violence and hate, liberal intolerance, liberal closed-mindedness, liberal bullying, liberal bigotry, and liberal discrimination.

Left-wing hypocrites will whine about, for examples, bullying and name-calling, then they will engage in bullying and name-calling.  They like to whine about censorship, then try to engage in censorship.  They are so blinded by hate they can't see how ridiculous they look.

Some liberal bigots are so extreme they actually believe it is okay to discriminate against and legally persecute decent moral businesspeople who merely don't want to cater to heterophobic homosexuals! 

Truly bizarre.

During Obama's eight years as president, Republicans picked up slightly over 1000 seats on the state level.  In other words, there are now about 1000 more Republican state senators and state house representatives than there were before Obama was first elected president. (Thank you Obama!) 

More and more people are seeing what liberals really are and are soundly rejecting them.  That's a good thing.

Wayne Lela

8/28 (435)

UNC Walk for Health requests Silent Sam be replaced with a question mark

TO THE EDITOR: 8/28 

For many UNC students, alumni, faculty and employees, the Confederate Soldiers Monument (Silent Sam) prominently displayed upon the hallowed grounds of the main northern entrance of campus is a symbol of slavery, segregation and racism/white supremacy. For others, it represents sedition, secession and treason.  

More than 620,000 soldiers died during the Civil War including at least 287 UNC students. Most of these deaths were not from gunshot wounds but from disease, with dysentery being the number one killer during the Civil War.

No person should be honored or glorified for killing another person. If someone takes another person’s life, then they should do it only to defend themselves. But even in self-defense, there should be no memorial statues, no special recognitions, no celebrations, no parades, no awards and no medals for killing someone. Why? Because we should value all life and longevity.

As problems solvers we must ask many direct questions concerning any historical monument. What is the purpose for the monument?  What were the people who established the monument trying to accomplish? Why in 2017 does it still exist? What do the caretakers of the monument believe to be the constructive result of the monument in regards to the quality of relationships of people to each other?

Compensatory law requires that when any monument is removed, something (even if it’s just air) must replace it.

In a world full of death, destruction, disease, and non-justice, UNC Walk for Health recommends that when Silent Sam is removed it be replaced with a symbol of justice. Until a better symbol of justice is found, we suggest a life-sized monument in the form of a question mark serve as the replacement. As the universal symbol of the Socratic method, the question mark ties in directly with the mission of the University of North Carolina, that is, to improve the quality of life for people in this society and solve the biggest problems on the planet.

According to logic, all problems are solved through the process of questions and answers.

William Thorpe is the co-founder of UNC Walk for Health, an organization that seeks to raise awareness of and reduce the risk of chronic diseases - all while improving mental well-being.

Note for Editor: Last year, UNC Walk for Health suggested relocating the Confederate Soldiers Monument to a proposed UNC Museum of Southern United States History (see Letter: ​UNC needs a museum for Southern history). The purpose for the UNC Museum of Southern US History or for the study of any history is to learn from the mistakes that were made.

William Thorpe

UNC Walk for Health

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