The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday May 20th

Editorial: Silent Sam decision is disappointing but unsurprising

After a largely obscured decision process, marked by faulty leadership and deadline extensions, Chancellor Carol Folt and the Board of Trustees finally came to a decision regarding the placement of Silent Sam, in a four-part plan presented on Monday. 

The result? The construction of a $5.3 million freestanding building (with a cost of an additional $800,000 each year to run it) on South Campus that will contextualize the history surrounding the monument. The University will also build the "McCorkle Place Gateway" where the monument formerly stood. The Gateway is intended to be “a commemorative space for reflection on our past, present and future.”

This plan was supposed to bring safety and order to campus, but a protest is already underway. What part of this plan did our administration think students would be in favor of? What exactly did they believe would come out of giving Silent Sam its own museum? 

The one accurate statement found in the report put before the UNC-system Board of Governors comes from a safety panel comprised of five security professionals: "UNC-CH faces a high risk of violence, civil disorder and property damage when the Silent Sam monument is restored on campus." 

We are very interested to hear what this security panel will say to the definite violence, civil disorder and property damage to an entire museum dedicated to Silent Sam.

The Editorial Board understands it is nearly impossible to move the monument off campus due to current laws placed by the General Assembly. Moving the monument from the forefront of campus to a single-purpose education building to contextualize the statue's history puts it, once again, in a place of privilege. There is no need to spend money and build high-tech museum exhibits revolving around a racist statue. A presentation of the original dedication speech is enough. 

The Board can think of many instances where $5.3 million can be used instead. The Student Union needs remodeling and additions. Our students are in need of greater mental health resources and accessibility. Several buildings on our campus are inaccessible to disabled students. Graduate students are paid wages that are barely sustainable.

In the ten-page report that our Board of Trustees submitted to the Board of Governors, the word “student” appears only five times. Once dedicating our allegiance to commemorating Confederate soldiers, and once used to describe the site that will be used to build the museum. The lack of current student participation only builds on the mounting rage against this monument, and it will not improve until the public opinion of the students is taken into account.

Administration will spend over $5 million, plus annual operating costs, to build this shrine for Silent Sam. For years, the Latinx organizations at UNC have been advocating for a space to meet and coordinate events. The consistent message from administration is that there is nowhere to go. Yet in two months the administration found the money to construct an unnecessary museum. It seems UNC is more willing to spend money on a racist relic of the past than students who attend this school. 

Once again, the administration has made it clear that minority students are merely props, to be used and exploited when it is convenient for them. 

The statue will be placed in South Campus, right off Manning Drive. South Campus is almost exclusively utilized as residences for undergraduates. Ram Village will house eight Black fraternities and sororities in fall 2019. Black students will be living adjacent to a monument that represents white supremacy. 

This decision was not made with the student’s best interests in mind. History will not look favorably on “the people’s University,” if the administration continues to advocate for wealthy donors instead of what is right for the University’s progress. If the goal of the chancellor and Board of Trustees is to treat students as consumable products rather than as the backbone of this institution, then they have succeeded. However, if their goal is to continue to espouse the values of “For All Kind,” then the administration needs to look deep within itself and truly reflect on who it wants to serve. 

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