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Tuesday December 6th

Where will Silent Sam go next? UNC Libraries say ‘not here, please’

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Update 8:05 p.m.: Monday, the Friends of the Library sent a letter to Folt stating that Silent Sam should not be put in Wilson Library or any other campus library, saying that it "would be extremely costly, logistically challenging, and culturally inappropriate."

Protests, vandalism and altercations surrounding Silent Sam could expose the library's rare books and special collections to damage, the letter said, while using scanners or searches to prevent such damage would keep students from using the library.

"Like the Administrative Board of the Library, whose statement of August 27 we applaud and endorse, we believe that Silent Sam belongs in a museum–ideally, one dedicated to the University," the letter said, going on to suggest that the Board of Trustees consider using a historic campus building to create such a museum. "Wilson Library is not a museum and should not become one."

As the University’s Board of Trustees decide where to place Silent Sam next, UNC Libraries have already said they do not want to house the statue.

The University’s Confederate monument, Silent Sam, was forcibly removed in August, and the UNC-system Board of Governors asked the BOT and Chancellor Carol Folt to create a plan for the monument’s “disposition and preservation” by Nov. 15.

The Administrative Board of the Library released a statement saying it opposed placing Silent Sam in any of the University’s libraries. 

The statement said putting the statue in a library would alter the learning environment of that space. 

According to the statement, even though the University’s libraries have housed artifacts that could be considered distasteful or offensive, housing Silent Sam would be different because it would inhibit visitors’ access to knowledge. It said none of the libraries have the resources to accommodate the statue and the controversy that follows it.

“Wilson Library, for example, does not have sufficient fire protection to handle the increased risk of fire that accompanies the continued protests and counter-protests of the monument,” said the ABL in its statement.

The board is a faculty committee that operates as part of the University’s faculty governance. Its current chairperson is Mark Crescenzi, a political science professor.

“Word had reached the ABL that a few people were mentioning the idea of placing the statue in Wilson Library, and we decided to be proactive,” Crescenzi said.

The ABL recommended Silent Sam be placed in the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. It said it believes the museum has the resources to help interpret the statue’s history and to house it safely. 

Students, faculty and community members have debated where the statue should go next. Some agree it should be housed in a museum. Others want it completely destroyed or returned to its original location on a pedestal in the University’s McCorkle Place.

Both those who want Silent Sam returned and those who do not have cited North Carolina Statute 100-2.1, a section of N.C. Senate Bill 22 from 2015, to support their claims.

The law does not allow moving or removing public monuments. 

A clause in the law says a public monument may be removed temporarily for its own protection or if it is blocking a construction zone, but it must be returned to its location after no more than 90 days. If a public monument must be relocated, it must be relocated to a “site of similar prominence, honor, visibility, availability and access that are within the boundaries of the jurisdiction.” 

“The Board of Governors instructed the Chancellor and Board of Trustees to develop a plan for the statue but did not mention the constraints of the 2015 law,” said UNC School of Law professor Eric Muller. “There certainly has been no indication from the South Building or the Office of University Counsel that in our discussions about what to do with the statue we must confine our ideas to just what the 2015 law appears to require.”

Muller said the statue does not clearly define jurisdiction, which leaves room for interpretation. Jurisdiction could mean the University’s campus or Orange County in general.

“Even if the UNC-Chapel Hill campus is the relevant jurisdiction within which Silent Sam must go, that leaves a lot of real estate," Muller said. "It could be smack dab in the middle of the Carolina North Forest off of Seawell School Road or at the UNC Facilities Services offices near the Giles Horney Building at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Airport Drive and still be within the boundaries of the jurisdiction from which it was located. Such a location might well fail the similar prominence, et cetera, requirement though.”

Muller said the 2015 law does not address what to do if the statue was forcibly removed. 

“I do not believe the question really is a strictly legal one anymore, if it ever was," Muller said. "The question is now a political one, not a legal one."

Chancellor Folt and the BOT released an email on Monday, Sept. 24, acknowledging the Nov. 15 deadline and welcoming suggestions. They said they will carefully review and consider all responses as they make their plan. 


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