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The Daily Tar Heel

This UNC professor's suggestion for Silent Sam is nearly identical to December proposal

Silent Sam BEFORE

UNC's Confederate monument, Silent Sam, was toppled by protestors on Aug. 20.

An email sent by a UNC department chairperson on Oct. 13 to University administration about the future of Silent Sam shows striking similarities to the proposal put forth on Dec. 3 by Chancellor Folt and the Board of Trustees, which was rejected Friday by the Board of Governors. 

The message from Mark Crescenzi, chairperson of both the Department of Political Science and of the Administrative Board of the Library, was among the 2,000-plus emails sent to the Office of the Chancellor and an inbox created for public comment on the monument. These emails were obtained by The Daily Tar Heel through a public records request. 

In an email to The Daily Tar Heel, Mark Crescenzi said that he did not have any discussions with the University's administration related to Silent Sam, and that he does not support UNC's December proposal. 

"In the event that the students, staff, faculty, and administration were all overruled by the BOG and the state, my hope was to find a way to place the statue out of sight to at least protect students, staff, and faculty from having to engage with this symbol of white supremacy," he wrote. 

"After the report was released, I learned in my conversations with my students that this would not work, in that even if the statue was placed indoors, its continued presence on this campus would be unacceptable, full stop. I completely support that view, and I very much hope that this community finds a way to prevent this statue from returning to campus."

In the message, Crescenzi emphasizes that he is speaking as an individual, and not in his role as chairperson of a department or of the ABL. He indicates a strong preference to house the monument off-campus, “based in part in my desire to support the students, staff, and faculty of color who are most deeply and negatively affected by its continued presence,” he wrote.

“Having said that, I understand that preferences and outcomes often diverge,” he continued. “Should you discover that whomever will be making this decision will require the statue to remain on campus, I recommend the commissioning of a University Museum.”

“Perhaps we could identify a space that is not too prominent but not too out of the way (easier said than done) and ask the good people of North Carolina to help come up with the funds to design and build the museum. I would ask that the statue be relocated into that museum, but that the museum be much more than a place to hold the statue. This is an opportunity to represent the entire history of the university, both the good and the bad.”

Crescenzi also expresses that he thinks the monument should not be housed in Wilson Library. He states that it would cost more than $80 million to “bring the library up to code such that this history would be able to survive the shenanigans of protesters.” Beyond this, Crescenzi writes that Wilson Library wouldn’t be able to contextualize the full history of the University. 

In September, Crescenzi sent a statement on behalf of the library board to Folt and Provost Bob Blouin that expressed similar sentiments, and that the relocation of Silent Sam to Wilson Library would “create an unsafe and untenable environment for our students and staff.” 

In October, the political science department endorsed a statement by the Council of Chairs in the College of Arts and Sciences which strongly opposes the return of Silent Sam to campus.

“I have been reluctant to share my own views because of my chair responsibilities, but I trust that your team can disaggregate the information,” Crescenzi wrote in the Oct. 13 email. “Suffice it to say that I support both statements in my capacities as chair.”

At time of publication, Crescenzi had not responded to a request for comment. 

The obtained emails were sent to two separate email addresses between Aug. 20 and Oct. 16 — one being the Office of the Chancellor, and the other being a newly created inbox, specifically created by the Chancellor and Board of Trustees for public comment on the statue, which was opened on Sept. 24, 2018.

As 2018 comes to end, the University community is left with more questions than answers about the statue, which was toppled by demonstrators on Aug. 20, 2018. On Dec. 3, the Chancellor presented a plan for the future of the monument, which focused on creating a new, freestanding Center for History and Education to contextualize the entire history of the University, including the monument. The center would cost an estimated $5.3 million to build and roughly $800,000 to maintain annually, and would reside on what was the Odum Village site.

The plan was approved by the UNC Board of Trustees with only two dissenting opinions. On Friday, the UNC-system Board of Governors rejected the plan, citing public safety concerns and issues surrounding having the state pay for the center itself.

Moving forward, Chancellor Folt told reporters in a conference call on Friday that the University would consider off-campus locations again, and said that the plan for the new center left “no one satisfied.” The BOG asked Folt and the BOT to report back by March 15. 

Sarah Lundgren contributed reporting.

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