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UNC faculty don't want Silent Sam on campus, according to survey

Silent Sam Survey Results.png

According to a survey sent to all 2,060 faculty and staff affiliated with the UNC College of Arts and Sciences, the highest percentage of respondents want Silent Sam to be relocated off-campus in a museum or historic setting. 

The survey, sent by Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Kevin Guskiewicz on Sept. 14, asked three open-ended questions, including a question about what should be done to Silent Sam and its site on McCorkle Place. On Monday, Guskiewicz published an executive summary of the nearly 400 anonymous responses.

The results indicate that 37 percent of respondents want Silent Sam moved off campus to a museum or historic site, 26 percent want to display it somewhere else on campus, 23 percent want to remove it from public view without a commitment to future display, 7 percent want to remove it from public view permanently and 3 percent, or 11 people, want to restore it to its former location. The remaining percentage did not clearly define a course of action.

Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld, senior associate dean of Social Sciences and Global Programs, spoke on behalf of Guskiewicz, who was unavailable for comment.

“For the College of Arts and Science, this is our home, and the monument is in the middle of it, and people think about this a whole lot,” Colloredo-Mansfeld said. “What happens around the monument affects all of us. We are a community that has really been on the front lines, and a lot of people in our community, a lot of our faculty and staff, really care about what’s going to happen.”

According to the executive summary, one of the places the faculty suggested Silent Sam should be relocated to was Bennett Place in Durham, the site of the negotiations of the largest troop surrender of the American Civil War.

“While we recognize that this issue is complicated, the monument has become a distraction that stands to jeopardize our continued status as one of the nation’s premier public research universities,” it said. “We do not support the return of Silent Sam to our campus.”

Guzkiewicz sent the full responses and the executive summary to Chancellor Carol Folt, along with a letter Guzkiewicz wrote. The purpose of the survey was to inform Folt and the UNC Board of Trustees of the prevailing feelings toward Silent Sam as their Nov. 15 deadline approaches to submit a plan of action to the Board of Governors, the letter said.

“Tolerating the continued presence of Silent Sam here serves to elevate honoring the past over respecting the faculty, staff and students of today and their efforts to shape a more humane and inclusive future,” the letter said.

The college took it upon themselves to conduct the survey not to exclude other schools within the University, but to provide an outlet for faculty and staff who deal professionally with the issues involving Silent Sam, Colloredo-Mansfeld said. 

“All schools have their own independence in how they want to respond to this moment and how they want to support the Chancellor,” Colloredo-Mansfeld said. “It’s not exclusive. We’re not doing this because we feel that others should not do this. We encourage anyone who has feelings on this to contribute.”

Graduate students did not receive the survey because they have already been a very outspoken unit on the topic of Silent Sam, Colloredo-Mansfeld said. In April, history graduate student Maya Little was arrested for pouring red paint and her own blood on Silent Sam, while two physics and astronomy graduate students were arrested at demonstrations in August and September.

“There was no moment when a decision was made not to include the graduate students,” Colloredo-Mansfeld said. “This was a positive decision to send it to both the faculty and the staff of the College.”

Staff member Heather Minchew runs the publications office for the Department of Romance Studies. Her survey responses lined up with the majority.

“I hope the Chancellor will take the results seriously and take them under consideration,” she said. “I’m in agreement that I would like to see the statue removed from campus and put in a more appropriate historical context, and I think that the survey did a pretty good job of overviewing the amount of support that’s behind that.”

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