The UNC Boycott has garnered national attention as it enters its second week of operation. Everything from social media campaigns, posters and students handing out fliers near Silent Sam has made nearly everyone on campus aware of the movement. The impacts of such boycott are not fully evident, but the spoken intent of the protesters are to drive up the costs of keeping Silent Sam on campus.
It is somewhat disheartening to see that the conversations around the boycott focus more on the means rather than the objective. Removing Silent Sam is a cause that is just and one that this board has consistently argued for, and we will continue to do so. Boycotts take time to make an impact and are not as flashy as large protests or demonstrations — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
While it may be sometime before the community can see if the boycott’s primary goal has a large enough impact to force the University’s hand, we shouldn’t overlook its immediate impacts.
First, this boycott has seen local business and community members engage with students in a more meaningful way. Locals donated supplies to the sit-in, restaurants have helped provide alternatives to on-campus dining and the issue of Silent Sam has become an issue in Chapel Hill-Carrboro local politics. Given that this is a town election year, it should be seen as positive that the community is rallying around student issues and letting it help shape their voting decision.
Second, boycotting is an effective way to protest and exercises one’s right to economic choice — especially coupled with continued activism. Even if the boycott is unsuccessful in accomplishing its central goal, staying civically engaged and understanding the power citizens collectively hold is a lesson many do not learn in college.