For the past few months at UNC, students, faculty, alumni and citizens have formulated ideas about the unknown fate of Silent Sam, the Confederate statue that was forcibly removed by protesters in late August.
Chancellor Carol Folt sent an email on Nov. 9 notifying the community about her and the Board of Trustees receiving an extension from the Board of Governors on their deadline to give a recommendation on what to do with the monument. She also touched on some of their efforts to involve faculty, staff and students, attaching a summary of the work of the Office of Faculty Governance and the Faculty Executive Committee. The report contained ideas created by faculty in the 11 workshops the committees held Oct. 3-10.
Graduate Emma Parker — who received both her undergraduate and master's degrees from UNC — began reading through the summary of faculty suggestions, finding the responses interesting and ranging from “well-informed and thoughtful” to “eye-rolling-ly impractical.” On Nov. 10, she said she decided to create the Twitter account @now_what_sam, where she started tweeting faculty ideas from the report every 30 minutes to put them in a more accessible space.
“I just thought it was really kind of surprising that I hadn’t seen (the ideas) listed anywhere,” Parker said. “I thought that the faculty went to the trouble to go to sessions or to provide feedback, and someone transcribed all of that and organized it and that it might be interesting to make a Twitter account and just share some of them.”
Parker, who took American studies classes as an undergraduate and worked in the Southern Historical Collection of Wilson Library, said she saw a lot of work on the topics surrounding Silent Sam done by students and faculty.
“They are super engaged in questions of University history and Southern history and race relations and how the University fits into the history of the South and the Civil War, so I felt like it was worth listening to what faculty and students had to say,” Parker said.
The University also released a summary of student ideas, and Parker said she would have put those ideas up as well, had the summary been as comprehensive as that of the faculty-based committees. Parker said she later discovered faculty were encouraged to be creative and inventive during the workshops, resulting in the more “off-the-wall” suggestions the report included.
As of Nov. 14, the account has posted almost 100 tweets, some suggesting burying the statue like a Terracotta warrior or moving it off campus to a variety of locations.
The most liked and retweeted post on the account asks for immunity and celebration of the protesters.
“Drop charges against those who toppled the statue; valorize them and others who organized against the monument,” the tweet said.
Another popular tweet included the suggestion to sell $3 tickets for students to get a chance to hit the statue with a sledgehammer, with the proceeds going toward reparation scholarships for African-American students.
Sophomore Delaney Davis, a chemistry and anthropology major in the College of Arts and Sciences, said she thinks putting the ideas in a place like Twitter can be useful in getting the word out to some about the options.
“Based on how people comment on those suggestions, or if people retweet them, if people think it’s something worthwhile to share, that’s some way of engaging,” Davis said. “But I think it’s also not the most effective way to get the options out to the entire Carolina community.”
As the uncertainty about Silent Sam’s fate continues, members of the UNC community are adding more ideas to the mix and working to shed light to new courses of action.
“The faculty did a tremendous job in generating a whole lot of ideas,” Parker said. “They were worth seeing in some place beyond a report that probably no one was really going to look at.”
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