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Sunday September 26th

'What a mess. Won’t be texting': More messages from UNC post-Silent Sam revealed

Vice Chancellor Winston Crisp spoke at the University Affairs Committee meeting on Jan. 30. Photo by Cori Patrick.
Buy Photos Vice Chancellor Winston Crisp spoke at the University Affairs Committee meeting on Jan. 30. Photo by Cori Patrick.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Philip Jones sent an email to University officials expressing outrage over Silent Sam's toppling and incorrectly attributed quotes from the email to him. Philip Jones, director of social media at UNC, copied and pasted a Facebook post from ACTBAC N.C. and sent it to University officials in the email. The story has been updated, and The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error. 

Texts and emails obtained by WRAL and released Friday show UNC officials were deeply engaged when Silent Sam was pulled down Aug. 20 and in the aftermath.

“You think they’re gonna take that thing down?” texted Christi Hurt, chief of staff for Student Affairs, to Winston Crisp, vice chancellor for Student Affairs.

“One can hope,” Crisp responded at 8:12 p.m.

Around 9:20 p.m., the Confederate statue fell.

“Holy shit,” Hurt texted Crisp.

“No comment,” Crisp texted back.

Around 5 minutes before the statue was pulled down, Associate Vice Chancellor for Campus Safety and Risk Management Derek Kemp texted a group message that included the Chancellor’s Chief of Staff Amy Hertel and other campus officials.

“Crowd returned,” Kemp said. “May have to pull officers back.”

Jeni Cook, media relations manager, texted a group message of other University communications officials that “police just pulled back and away from the monument” and that she saw a “cable” on the monument.

When Silent Sam fell, Director of Content Development Natalie Vizuete texted, “Oh my gods.” Randy Young,  media relations manager for UNC public safety, worked to check on injuries.

Kate Luck, another media relations manager, said she was telling media outlets the University probably wouldn’t have anything that night.

“DTH wants Chancellor’s perspective for tonight,” Luck said. “Obviously won’t get that.”

The following morning, Ed McMahan, a UNC Board of Trustees member, texted Chancellor Carol Folt and Haywood Cochrane, chairperson of the Board of Trustees. He said the University and Board of Trustees need to be clear about how wrong the act was.

“Any student or faculty member that participated and can be identified will be subject to immediate dismissal,” McMahan said. “Secondly, I think we need to replace SS with new statue honoring all UNC students that have given their life protecting our country, including the Civil War.”

The night Silent Sam fell, Philip Jones, director of social media at UNC, copied and pasted a Facebook post from ACTBAC N.C., a neo-Confederate group who was there in support of the statue, and sent it in an email to University officials. The post expressed outrage over the monument's toppling and has since been deleted.

The post said the group “fought like hell against the police and the mob to save Silent Sam,” and stated that the “Confederate community” is “at WAR!!!”

“The ones that committed this lawless act, you will rot in hell with your hammer and sickle across your back,” it said. “Oh lord, oh lord please help us in the coming weeks. The line has been crossed, and war is HELL!!!!”

Kemp forwarded Jones’ email to UNC Police Chief Jeff McCracken, with his own comment of, “FYI…”

In a mass email, McCracken personally thanked everyone working for UNC Police who had a role in the previous night’s events.

“We have been put in a difficult situation for an extended period of time, and I could not be more proud of the way everyone has performed,” McCracken told the department. “Our top priority will always be public safety and the fact that no one was injured last night speaks volumes about your professionalism.”

Student Body President Savannah Putnam emailed a statement undersigned by the Undergraduate Executive Branch the morning following the statue’s removal. The statement praised those who tore down the statue and condemned the statue’s history.

Later that morning, a text from Hurt to Crisp indicated that someone named “Mike” in the administration was not happy with the statement.

“Mike is having a bit of a cow about the student gov message,” Hurt said.

Crisp advised Kemp to be cautious with communications.

“Whew,” Crisp texted. “What a mess. Won’t be texting. You be very careful with text and email also. Call if you need.”

Later that day, Crisp told Hurt, “No texting..”

Joel Curran, vice chancellor for University communications, received a text of encouragement the next day from Brad Bohlander, N.C. State University's chief communications officer.

“Thanks buddy,” Curran responded. “Got another one coming. And Alt right marching on Saturday…”

In an email within an hour after Silent Sam’s removal, former dean of the UNC School of Law Judith Wegner gave her own advice to Crisp on working with the administration moving forward from that night.

“We knew somehow the end game would play out like this, and do so on your watch,” Wegner said. “You were made for this. You could always quit if they don’t like your advice?”

@bycharliemcgee

university@dailytarheel.com

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