The Statue is in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Dellinger said, and though it is not a lawsuit, there is a possibility it could turn into one.
The University and UNC General Administration both responded to the letter saying that they did not believe Silent Sam violates federal law. They directed Hampton to the University’s Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office.
“There were no details to support UNC’s position, so I wrote back [on Sept. 22] to UNC officials through their respective lawyers and summarized a range of legal precedents to support the position that Silent Sam does violate federal law,” Dellinger said.
“I believe UNC owes it to students, faculty and the public to justify publicly its claim," he said.
Christian Correa, a sophomore political science and sociology major, was one of the 12 students to sign the letter.
“I think [the letter] created an important dialogue that hadn’t been there before,” Correa said. “It brought up discussion of federal law, whereas previous discussions had been on state law and municipalities, like the North Carolina General Assembly Bill and Roy Cooper’s involvement.”
Correa said it was important for people to understand that Silent Sam creates a racially contentious climate — something that the letter helps to address.
“This isn’t just a one-time incident of racial discrimination or racial hostility, it’s there every day — it’s permanent, it’s pervasive and it’s unavoidable — and I think that really leads into the claim that it creates this hostile environment, because it’s not just something that happened and then you move on,” Correa said.
“It’s there all the time with no way of circumventing it," he said.
In a letter to Hampton dated Sept. 26, UNC General Counsel Mark Merritt said that UNC has not formed an opinion as to whether the statue creates a racially hostile environment and that the University's EOC Office is in the process of conducting an assessment.
Correa said it is important to understand that this is not just an issue involving a minority of students.
“I’m not a black person, but I don’t need to be a black person to understand their plight and to understand how this statue has created an environment that makes them feel unsafe and unwelcome,” Correa said.
“Having a racially hostile environment for anyone detrimentally affects all the students," he said. "So even with it being racially hostile towards black students, all of our students are being detrimentally impacted, because we want to have as much of a welcome and inclusive environment that allows all people of all races to thrive and to grow.”
The letter is one of the latest actions to protest Silent Sam, along with the ongoing boycott of UNC’s commercial goods on campus, and following the protest on Aug. 22 that drew hundreds of people to denounce the statue.
Mario Benavente, a senior peace, war, and defense and communications major, attended the protest and has occupied the area in protest since then.
“That evening there were eight students that decided they were going to stay overnight because most of them felt weird about leaving — they couldn’t leave because the job wasn’t done,” said Benavente.
“Personally, I saw those eight students, and that’s when I decided to get more directly involved and stay involved.”
By mid-September, the Boycott UNC movement began, which is scheduled to end on Oct. 18.
Michelle Brown, a senior women's and gender studies and hispanic literature major, has also been actively speaking out against Silent Sam. She joined in the initial protest, the sit in that followed and the Boycott UNC movement. She also signed the Sept. 13 letter.
She said the different forms of protest have stemmed from the varying interests and connections that participants of the movement have.
Brown said students have been able to reach out to organizations they have ties with, such as Nourish UNC, which helped provide meals for students who are participating in the boycott.
Students have used their specialities to keep the movement going, Brown said. Those who prefer history have been studying past Silent Sam protests and implementing those ideas, while other students have been in charge of the logistics.
"We don’t want to become too easy to be ignored or managed," Brown said.
"That’s why many of our actions last for a short period of time and then we move onto a different piece, because we want this to continue to get attention and not be something people get used to."