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Silent Sam to be housed in new freestanding building, Folt and BOT recommend

UNC Board of Trustees

Chancellor Carol Folt and university officials speak to members of the press following the UNC Board of Trustee’s Dec. 3 meeting, where the board announced its proposal for the future of Silent Sam, at Carolina Inn.

Update 2:10 p.m.: In a message released to students and staff from the Chancellor's office, Chancellor Carol Folt and Provost Robert Blouin outlined the four-part plan for Silent Sam and contextualization on UNC's campus. 

In the message, Folt and Blouin said that they believe the proposed plan, approved by the BOT, meets what the Board of Governors asked for: "to propose a plan for disposition and preservation of the Confederate Monument that is consistently with current law, protects public safety, preserves the monument and its history, and allows the University to focus on its core mission of education, research, economic stimulation and creating the next generation of leaders."

The message says that Folt and Blouin would prefer an off-campus location, but under state law, they said public safety concerns are an important part of this proposal. 

They said the center is the best legal option for the University, which will include the monument and other historical artifacts on display. 

"The Center would be in a new, free-standing building with state-of-the-art security and outstanding programming located in Odum Village, an easily accessible campus area slated for growth in the near term under our campus master plan," the statement said. "This site most closely fits both the recommendations from the safety panel and the criteria established for relocation by the current monument law."

(i.e., the bronze statue and commemorative tablets) together with other historical artifacts, display spaces, classroom space and an auditorium with interactive technology.

Chancellor Carol Folt and the UNC Board of Trustees propose placing Silent Sam in a new, single-purpose building, meaning it cannot be used for another purpose such as an academic building, on UNC's Odum Village site where it can be preserved and historically contextualized, the Board of Trustees announced Monday morning. 

Folt said that public safety concerns alone made it impossible to return to the statue to its former pedestal or any other outdoor location. She also said off-campus removal is impossible under current law.

The proposal was announced during an 8 a.m. special meeting at The Carolina Inn on Monday.

The proposed building would cost an estimated $5.3 million to construct and $800,000 annually in operating costs, according to a report distributed at the meeting. 

The proposal nearly concludes the semester-long saga during which students, faculty, alumni and local residents alike have weighed in on the future of the Confederate monument after protesters toppled the statue the night before the first day of classes — leaving its McCorkle Place pedestal empty for months. 

“We do want to get this right, and we believe we have,” Folt said at the meeting. 

The plan includes four parts: disposition and preservation of the artifacts, the expansion of historical contextualization on campus, establishment of a university history and education center where the monument will reside, and the creation of a new McCorkle Place Gateway in the monument’s former place.

The BOT had a Dec. 3 deadline to decide on a plan for the permanent location of the monument, to be presented to the UNC-system Board of Governors.

On Aug. 20, demonstrators threw a rope across Silent Sam, the anonymous statue erected in 1913 to honor UNC students who died for the Confederate cause, and pulled the monument to the ground. The statue was removed to an undisclosed location by University officials and has been away from its pedestal for the remainder of the semester.

In September, Chancellor Folt and the Board of Trustees provided community members with an email address to provide their input on the statue’s future. 

Originally, the BOG gave the BOT until Nov. 15 to decide on a plan to move forward. The BOG agreed to an extension so the BOT could continue researching their options.

“We just need a little more time to really feel like we have the information,” Chancellor Carol Folt said at the board’s Nov. 14 meeting. 

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Student and faculty groups have called for the statue’s permanent removal from University grounds, and Chancellor Folt herself has spoke out against returning Silent Sam to its former place at the entrance to UNC’s campus. 

"Silent Sam has a place in our history and on our campus where its history can be taught, but not at the front door of a safe, welcoming, proudly public research university," Folt said in a conference call with reporters on Aug. 31. 

The BOT’s plan is subject to approval from the Board of Governors, which oversees the entire UNC system. The next BOG meeting is set for Dec. 14.