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The Daily Tar Heel

Chancellor Folt holds Silent Sam press conference, BOG members speak out

BOG Meeting
The UNC System Board of Governors met Tuesday at UNC System Office in Chapel Hill.

Update 11:20 a.m.: BOG member Thom Goolsby posted a video and said the rule of law will be enforced. Goolsby said based on North Carolina General Statute 100-2.1, the monument must be placed back on campus within 90 days. 

"We will do all that we can to keep off the campus people who are committing crime, and we will preserve the laws of state of North Carolina," Goolsby said in the video. "We will not allow anarchy to reign on our campuses. We will do all that we can to see that the rule of law is enforced."

Chancellor Carol Folt held a conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon to discuss the aftermath of Monday night’s Silent Sam protest, which saw the Confederate monument pulled down from its pedestal. In addition to Folt’s comments, several more members of the UNC-system Board of Governors have spoken out.

Folt said the University is focusing on safety, preparation for future events and the investigation process.

“No matter what is felt about the monument, what happened on Monday night was destruction of state property, and that is not lawful and someone could have been badly injured,” Folt said. “Using the full breadth of state and University processes, we will do our best to identify and will hold those responsible accountable.” 

But Folt would not answer questions about the monument's current location or plans for whether or not they bring it back to campus.

“I am not prepared to answer anything about the next state of the monument,” Folt said. “We have to keep it safe right now as we’re going through these other things.”

Folt also said the University is monitoring social media and is aware of potential events this upcoming weekend but does not have any specific details about what might occur. 

Marty Kotis, member of the UNC Board of Governors, said safety is also the board’s highest priority moving forward. However, Kotis worries that the nature of Monday’s protest, which he described as “mob rule,” could bring about unintended consequences.

“The toppling of the monument poses a significant threat in that it might attract other groups and cause them to rally around the monument –  be that Antifa or white supremacists or other groups that could potentially have very violent conflict on site,” Kotis said. “So I don’t think the toppling of the monument de-escalated the situation. I think if anything it has escalated tension.”

Kotis said he believes additional markers to the monument would help to preserve history while also explaining it. 

He emphasized the importance of civil discussion in producing change, referring to the renaming of Carolina Hall. The academic building, formerly known as “Saunders Hall,” had been previously named after William Saunders, a Confederate colonel.

“We need to be consistent in how we approach things,” Kotis said. “We can’t pick and choose different things based on ideology in terms of enforcement.” 

In a statement issued to The Daily Tar Heel, UNC Board of Governors member Thom Goolsby called for the monument to be repaired and reinstalled. He referred to a North Carolina statute that prohibits the removal of monuments on public property.

The statute requires that removed monuments be returned to their usual location within 90 days of the initial removal.

“If, in the future, it is the will of the North Carolina people to change the law, I will abide by the will of the people, even though I would disagree,” Goolsby said in the statement. “This is what it means to live under the Rule of Law, not the rule of the mob.”

Rep. David Price also issued a statement to The Daily Tar Heel.

“It should not have taken an act of civil disobedience to remove this monument to hate. We should not condone actions that threaten public health or safety but neither should politicians in Raleigh prevent local communities from taking action through peaceful means,” Price said in the statement.

The UNC Center for the Study of the American South issued a statement on Tuesday. They quoted Pauli Murrary, a black woman who wrote to then-President Frank Porter Graham seeking admission to UNC in 1938, saying they are proud of the activists who, “cannot compromise with (their) ideals of human equality."

“UNC’s leadership refuses to recognize that their own inaction put our community in danger. We acknowledge the constraints they face but we urge them to stand on the right side of history and join us in rejecting simplistic interpretations of last night’s actions as vandalism,” the statement said. “Silent Sam was violence. Protestors who removed it sought to reorient our future toward non-violence. UNC’s leadership has another chance to heed Pauli Murray’s call to hold fast to our ideals for human equality. We need new narrative to reckon with the history we share.”

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The Department of History released a similar statement, signed by 29 faculty members. 

"Civil disobedience, particularly among students, has a long and storied history in the United States, especially in the American South," the statement reads. "The hyperbolic characterization of Silent Sam’s toppling as 'lawlessness' and 'mob action' by Chancellor Folt and UNC System leaders demonstrates a purposeful, obdurate disregard for historical and social context."  

In addition, 48 University faculty members from 15 departments signed a letter that appeared in the News & Observer denouncing the University's leadership following the protest. 

"The time is now for the university administration to show leadership, not bureaucratic obfuscation," the letter reads. "Show us that you and the university do indeed stand for Lux et Libertas, not sustaining and enforcing the symbols of human cruelty."