Folt, McCracken receive dozens of emails and voicemails after toppling of Silent Sam
UNC Chancellor Carol Folt walks with Mark Merritt, vice chancellor and general council of UNC, through the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Conference Center in Nashville, Tenn. during a lunch break Aug. 16, 2017.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story identified the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center as the Opreyland Conference Center. The story has been updated with the correct spelling of the center's name. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.
Chancellor Carol Folt received an array of disgruntled texts, emails and voicemails the night of Silent Sam’s toppling and the day after.
Following a public records request by The Daily Tar Heel for communications to the Chancellor's Office on Aug. 20 and 21, the University released 18 emails, one text and approximately 150 voicemails on Wednesday. The release included a note that mentioned 102 additional voicemails not yet recorded by the University at the time of their release to the DTH.
The Office of Board of Trustees also received an additional 25 calls that have not been documented. Many of the received documents also included redacted information.
The Daily Tar Heel has also received 11 emails sent to UNC Police Chief Jeff McCracken.
The texts, emails and voicemails are from community members, UNC alumni, members of the Board of Governors, current students and others who wanted to share their opinion regarding the monument’s forced removal.
The majority of the communications expressed outrage and questioned the University's response. Others praised the demonstrators who pulled down the monument, calling for Folt to not bring Silent Sam back to campus.
‘Hell in a hand basket’
Some of the messages condemn both Chancellor Folt and the police force for not taking action to prevent the monument's toppling.
“I feel you and the people below you knew this was going to happen and this borders on criminal behavior," Phillip Gentry said in an email to Folt. "I will be contacting my State representative to start an investigation and also contacting each member of the Board of Governors to investigate what actually went down before the statue was destroyed.”
Andy Chapel, class of 1995, accused Folt of asking UNC police to stand down and allow “the vandals to destroy state property.”
“I hope the UNC Legislature holds you personally accountable," he wrote in an email. "I am certain you will see backlash in your budget. Terrible job, Chancellor. Your liberal political views are not clear and open for all to see."
Another email said the country is going to “hell in a hand basket.”
“Overall, shameful day in Chapel Hill that will leave a black mark on the school for years to come, and you can bet that many of the school's alumni won't sit back and accept this. I have already decided I will give no more money to the university until they punish these idiots and make an example of them, and I will encourage ever other UNC graduate that I know not to give them one penny,” a UNC graduate said to Andy Chapel, who forwarded their message to Folt in an email.
UNC junior Tanner Henson, a member of UNC’s Undergraduate Senate, praised Folt for her statement condemning the unlawful removal of Silent Sam.
“I fully understand the sentiment behind the angst directed toward Silent Sam, and feel as many, that it is somewhat justified,” Henson said in the email. “However, there are proper ways to handle our disagreements (IE Peaceful Protesting and Civil Dissonance). Our great experiment of democracy will fail when individuals fail to follow the law and when laws are broken due to differing opinions.”
Folt also received numerous angry voicemails about the University's response, according to notes released to The Daily Tar Heel. Some asked Folt, “why was this allowed to happen?” and expressed feeling “really disturbed at toppling of statue.”
Voicemails from callers both out-of-state and in-state also questioned the police and University response.
Another local resident suggested they were leaving Chapel Hill because of the incident.
“UNC condoning mob-rule. Disgusting situation. Leaving Chapel Hill,” the unidentified local resident said.
Another called the protesters “idiots that took down Silent Sam.”
“Too bad it didn’t fall on the ones at the University that allowed that to happen,” the caller said.
Jonathan Lin left a voicemail with a simple message expressed by a handful of the callers: “No more money!”
Only one text to Folt’s phone was provided to the DTH.
“Please get silent Sam back up asap,” the text said. “If we do not, we will be encouraging illegal activity.”
Eric Schmidt, a 2007 graduate and senior class vice president, said in an email that he remembers his first time visiting campus and seeing the Pit, feeling the joy of seeing so many people in one place on campus. He said he also remembers seeing Silent Sam.
“I'll also never forget the first time I walked past Silent Sam and when the tour guide told me that he was standing, facing north, protecting us from the Yankee soldiers. Protecting us from what, exactly?” Schmidt said in the email. “I'm not proud that the University, however, has chosen to not support those actions and instead has chosen to be on the wrong side of history. I was embarrassed today that when my coworkers asked me about what was happening at Carolina last night, I couldn't confidently say that the University was leading the way in making sure we supported all of our students.”
Some emails expressed support for Silent Sam’s removal. One email from Will Leimenstoll said the crowd following the monument’s crowd was joyful and peaceful.
“I'm sure this is a hectic evening for you," he wrote. "Just wanted to drop a note of support on behalf of the quiet majority of Carolina students and alums who are joyful and glad that Silent Sam no longer stands over our campus. I can only imagine the messages you are receiving tonight, but I want to let you know, as someone who went up the hill in the rain to see the statue on the ground in person, how great it felt to see it. This was so long overdue”
Anita Tesh, professor and assistant dean in the UNC School of Nursing, thanked Folt for her thoughtful message.
“I am now embarrassed that at the time I was ignorant of the racial overtones of the monument. ButI have to say that my heart is with the folks who pulled it down,” Tesh said in the email.
A 2008 UNC alum and former University employee Jaclyn Gilstrap said the University community has spent years respectfully requesting Silent Sam’s removal.
"I stand in solidarity with these freedom fighters, and I urge you to take a bold stand on the right side of history. We need strong leadership during this time,” Gilstrap said in the email. “We need a Chancellor and her staff who are willing to support a brighter future for all UNC students, staff, and alumni.”
While most of the voicemails included individuals angered by the toppling, others asked Folt to leave the statue down.
“Gov. suggested Silent Sam be removed for public safety reasons already; should not be put back up. How would she feel if her kids were being auctioned off?” Daryl Freedman said in a voicemail.
Another voicemail from an anonymous caller said he found it offensive that the Confederate statue would be reinstalled. He suggested a William Sherman statue as a replacement.
“After all, southerners were traitors to the USA and they lost the war,” the caller said.
Joe Gehris from Indiana suggested to move Silent Sam to a Gettysburg museum.
“Great piece for discussion about our history,” Gehris said in a voicemail.
‘Not a damn thing’
One email to McCracken from Brent Sutton said he saw what happened on the news on the night Silent Sam was toppled, and that McCracken's department did exactly what he thought they would do.
“NOT A DAMN THING. It is my feeling that your job is to protect life and property and you sure as hell did not protect property,” Sutton said in the email. “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? Is this what the UNC 'higher-ups' wanted? I think maybe so. One less problem for them to deal with and they have enough self inflicted issues to deal with. I really think that you should be fired if you are not willing to do your job. Or how about you just quit?”
Other emails exchanged news articles or suggested starting dialogue about “post critical incident services for any officer who may want it.”
One exchange was between UNC Media Relations Manager Randy Young and McCracken. Young asked about a potential response The Durham Herald Sun and News and Observer who asked about University cameras on McCorkle Place.
“Any thoughts on a response? Wouldn't this be something integral to an investigation which we wouldn’t comment on?” Young said in the email.