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The Daily Tar Heel

Members of the SILS faculty ask UNC to remove Silent Sam

Students and community members began a 24/7 demonstration at Silent Sam on Aug. 22.

Students and community members began a 24/7 demonstration at Silent Sam on Aug. 22.

Updated March 6, 10:30 p.m.: A group of 270 faculty, staff, students, alumni and other affiliates of the UNC School of Information and Library Science issued a statement calling for the removal of Silent Sam. 

The statement was sent to Gary Marchionini, dean of the SILS department, on Feb. 26. A copy was sent to The Daily Tar Heel. The statement said Silent Sam's presence opposes the department's mission to "improve the quality of life for diverse local, national, and global communities.” 

The statement said the Confederate monument restricts "access, use, management, and stewardship of information.”

The full statement and all the affiliates can be found here

Marchionini replied in an email March 1, saying the school would not endorse a call for the removal of the monument. Marchionini sent a copy of his reponse to The Daily Tar Heel. 

"I understand and appreciate your perspective about the monument," he said. "Because the University does not have the legal authority to move Silent Sam, SILS is unable to endorse your position. The University and its schools, including SILS, must follow and uphold state law."

Twenty-one faculty members of the UNC School of Information and Library Science signed a letter requesting the University remove Silent Sam from McCorkle Place. 

The letter, which can be read here, cited "proof of the real danger to students, staff and faculty," posed by Silent Sam as a reason to remove the Confederate monument. 

"As researchers and professionals who study, and work to improve the institutions and systems that hold knowledge, we understand the value of remembering," the letter said. "We also recognize that historical documents, improperly contextualized, can have dangerous implications for the present."  

Paul Jones, a SILS clinical professor, tweeted the letter Monday evening.

SILS professor Sandra Hughes-Hassell signed the letter and retweeted Jones. Dana Hanson-Baldauf, a SILS postdoctoral research associate, signed the letter and liked Jones' tweet. 

The letter follows an anonymous faculty letter sent to Chancellor Carol Folt in late February. The Daily Tar Heel received a copy of the letter Feb. 23. 

The group of alleged 17 faculty members demanded Folt remove Silent Sam and claimed the chancellor has reached out to Gov. Cooper for help petitioning the N.C. Historical Commission. 

On Saturday, student organizers from the Move Silent Sam movement "received confirmation from credible sources" that the people behind the anonymous faculty letter and the Twitter account "G17UNCLoud" are 17 UNC faculty members, according to a tweet from Michelle Brown, a UNC student activist. 

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When asked to confirm or deny if Folt has reached out or is planning to reach out to Cooper in response to the anonymous faculty letter, Joanne Peters Denny, a UNC spokesperson, said these conversations are not happening.

"We don't make our policy decisions based on threats from unauthenticated, anonymous groups," Peters Denny said in an email. 

Peters Denny said they do not know who is behind these statements and have not been in communication with the group.

The Daily Tar Heel's request for an interview with Folt on Feb. 27 was denied.

"We aren’t going to conduct interviews to respond to anonymous, unverified comments," Peters Denny said. 

Peters Denny cited Folt's history of going on the record in the past about the monument, including the letter to Gov. Cooper that she co-signed in Aug. 2017, in which she expressed her concern about public safety surrounding the monument. 

Folt's position has not changed, Peters Denny said. 

The Daily Tar Heel has reached out to Cooper for comment and has not received a response as of time of publication. 

The SILS faculty message is the latest in a string of statements from UNC departments, including:

Rachel Jones contributed reporting. Check to see if there are any further updates.