Maya Little, the doctoral history student who poured a mixture of red paint and her own blood on Silent Sam in April, is appealing her UNC Honor Court decision for defacing Silent Sam.
The Court sanctioned Little with a warning letter and 18 hours of community service.
Little walked out during the second day of her Honor Court hearing on Oct. 26. Frank Pray, one of the student adjudicators in the trial, came under public scrutiny for prior statements endorsing Silent Sam and a Twitter insult against one of Little’s witnesses, UNC professor Altha Cravey.
Little said she is appealing her Honor Court ruling because she thinks it was unfair. Little said the UNC Honor Court has a history of silencing activists, dating back to 1975 when the University "used the Honor Court to go after" Black student activists who protested the former KKK leader David Duke speaking at UNC using student fees.
“I was convinced I would not receive a fair and impartial trial, and I did not,” Little said. “I felt that it was insulting and degrading to force me to sit there in what Amelia Ahern (panel presiding officer) called ‘an educational process.’ And again, when I asked her why it was going to be educational, she couldn’t answer. Perhaps for some of these students, like Amelia Ahern and such, this is a resume-building experience. They get to adjudicate this tiny little court and use students as their experiments, but I am not going to subject myself to that, and that’s why I walked out.”
Kisha Patel, the Graduate and Professional School Honor Court chairperson, said the Honor Court could not comment on specific cases due to privacy reasons.
But students across campus have varying perspectives on Little’s cause and decision to appeal. Sophomore Sam Bible-Sullivan said Little made a profound statement when she poured the mixture of red paint and blood on Silent Sam in April and feels Pray should not keep his position on the Honor Court. But Bible-Sullivan also believes Little accepting her sanctions could strengthen the movement against Silent Sam.
“Honestly, I feel like they could have gone way harsher on her, and I think that the statement if they hadn’t punished her would have been a statement from the University,” Bible-Sullivan said. “I think her statement would have faltered more because you look at movements and stuff. When people commit acts of protest, it’s them knowing they will face repercussions for those actions that really provides the power with what they’re doing. They’re like, 'Hey, I know I’m going to face legal or Honor Court repercussions, but I don’t care because I care about this.'”
Little, on the other hand, said the Honor Court made a decision to charge her in spite of a petition with over 6,000 signatures calling for her charges to be dropped, including one from a direct descendant of Julian Carr. Carr is known for Silent Sam's infamous dedication speech.
Little also said 56 percent of the charges that the Honor Court chooses to pursue are against students of color, according to a 2016 Daily Tar Heel article.
“I hope my appeal is granted,” Little said. “If my appeal is not granted, I’ll continue pushing for the abolition of the Honor Court and pushing for some responsibility from its members and from the administration at this University because what is happening is so many students are being abused by these institutions, especially Black and brown students, especially marginalized students.”
Not all students support Little’s protest or her Honor Court appeal. Senior Coby Devito said the Honor Court’s sanctions against Little were too lenient. Devito said a judge's personal beliefs can confound the legitimacy of a trial, but the leniency shown by the Honor Court shows Little received a fair trial.
“I hope that the University enforces her sanctions, and if she does not do the community service, her status as a student (can) be put on hold,” Devito said. “If she were not to do the service without any punishment, the legitimacy of the Honor Court would be undermined. It would essentially demonstrate that the Honor Court is powerless, and all sanctions imposed by it are meaningless.”
Another student, sophomore Hayle Tyson, said they think Little’s Honor Court sanctions were fair, but Silent Sam should not have been on campus in the first place.
“I think it’s making students really question the strength of their voice on campus and whether or not the administration is actually listening,” Tyson said.
Little said she has no expectations that the UNC leadership — Chancellor Carol Folt, Margaret Spellings, the Board of Governors and Board of Trustees — will keep Silent Sam off campus.
“They’ve shown themselves to be upholding white supremacy and antagonistic and against anti-racist activism,” Little said. “As for what happens with Silent Sam and with any facet of white supremacy, students, workers and community members will continue having to take the responsibility in fighting against white supremacy because, unlike Margaret Spellings, we can’t take half a million dollars and go to a different university and do the same exact things to the students there. We have some accountability and responsibility to each other and to the community we’ve created, and we don’t want the white supremacy in that, so no matter what happens to Silent Sam, we’ll continue to oppose him being brought back to campus, and we’ll continue to oppose every facet of white supremacy at UNC.”
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