“This is a compilation of thoughts from many trustees,” Cochrane said. “I’ve lost count of the number of iterations this represents, but I think it’s either seven or eight.”
The only order of business left was to confirm the statement as the BOT’s public position, but before it could be ratified, dissent emerged from two Trustees who were connected via intercom.
First, Hari Nath asked for a few words to be added to a sentence in the third paragraph — a small request that was not pursued. Then, Bill Keyes offered the more aggressive suggestion of rewording the document’s language, taking emphasis off the Chancellor’s name, and reaffirming the importance of the BOT.
“This is a statement about the Board’s view,” Keyes said. “Every other paragraph we mention the Chancellor. I love the Chancellor as much as everybody else does. I respect the role of the Chancellor and all of that. I would like to just say, this is what we believe as a board.”
Keyes wanted to erase the Chancellor’s name in a few places, reword some sentences and add in the word “we” in lieu of acknowledging Folt. He was met with heavy pushback from other BOT members. Multiple Trustees made statements affirming the Chancellor’s importance in the upcoming decision process, and spoke about the specific directions they received from the systems board to collaborate on a solution with the Chancellor.
After a few more Trustees spoke out in Folt’s defense, Nath came back in over the intercom: “I’m completely lost,” he said. He said he wasn't sure what the new motion was for.
“You’re no more lost than others in this room,” Cochrane said.
Nath had one more suggestion. He asked for resolutions to be presented to the BOT six hours before meetings, to avoid laborious sessions of word-smithing.
Cochrane told him the day’s proceedings were too open-ended for the Board to provide the document in advance.
“These events are somewhat real time, very fluid,” Cochrane said. “Other times we might have more chance to deliberate.”
"It’s our job to hold the University accountable"
Student Body President Savannah Putnam was asked to leave a conference call last week, in which sensitive information was discussed among the BOT, Cochrane said in an email to UNC Media Relations Manager Kate Luck.
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After it happened, Putnam contacted her administration in a group Slack message that The Daily Tar Heel received from an anonymous source, saying, “I just got kicked off the BOT call, I should be getting a follow up later but that’s something peculiar to say the least.” After some questions from her team she added, “We don't know if it was malicious or not.”
Putnam was asked to leave the call because of the Board’s conflict of interest policy. The SBP had made a public statement about the monument's removal, presenting a problem for the Board. In a statement, Cochrane said that she then had “a conflict of interest with her role as a Trustee.”
“I suggested she recuse herself from the call,” Cochrane said in the email. “And she agreed.”
At the meeting on Tuesday, Cochrane asked for any Board member who was aware of a present conflict of interest to identify it. No one responded, and Putnam stayed at the table.
Putnam declined to comment on being asked to leave the call and is intent on being an active part on the solution process. She said she doesn't want the student voice to be silenced by the individuals making the decisions.
“It’s our job to hold the University accountable, make sure they're at the right side of history,” she said. “We’ll do our very best to get a seat at that table.”
In a message geared toward students of the University, Folt said undergraduates would be an important part of the University’s next steps.
“I’m grateful that we have a chance to really look at this in a way that gives us the opportunity to truly find a solution, that is safe and allows our campus to continue to function,” Folt said. “I ask that they understand I don't have that fully developed yet, but we will reach out to people.”