On Friday, UNC activists posted online that 79 teaching assistants and instructors had signed a petition to withhold grades in opposition to Silent Sam's relocation plan, proposed by Chancellor Folt and the UNC Board of Trustees on Monday.
According to the News & Observer, nearly 2,200 grades will not be released until the BOT withdraws the plan and allows for listening sessions with the UNC community.
On Monday, Chancellor Folt announced a plan for relocation for the statue, which the Board of Trustees passed with only two dissenting opinions. The plan calls for a new History and Education Center to be built to help contextualize the University's history and house Silent Sam. The center is expected to be completed by 2022 and will reside on the former Odum Village site on campus.
The new center will cost an estimated $5.3 million, and cost roughly an additional $800,000 to operate annually.
The UNC-system Board of Governors is expected to vote on the plan at a meeting on Dec. 14. The UNC faculty executive council is meeting Friday at 3 p.m., and it is expected that they will discuss withholding grades and the monument in the meeting.
On Friday morning, Kevin Guskiewicz, the dean of the College of Arts and Science, and Provost Bob Blouin invited UNC graduate students, who often work as teaching assistants, to a meeting from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
In the email invitation, sent Thursday night, they said they knew many graduate students were concerned with the topic at hand, though they did not name Silent Sam specifically.
"I realize that many of you may be involved with final exams and everyone has busy schedules," the email from Guskiewicz said. "However, we recognize that this is a topic of significant importance, and I do hope that we can come together as university employees to have a discussion."
Also on Thursday night, Provost Blouin sent an email to the University's deans, alerting them of the potential strike and that it violated the University's instructional responsibilities.
"Our students are entitled to receive their grades in a timely manner," said Blouin in the email. "It is especially critical for the students preparing to graduate next Sunday, as well as the thousands of students whose scholarships, grants, loans, visa status, school transfers, job opportunities and military commissions may be imperiled because lack of grades threaten their eligibility."
In the email, Blouin said it came to his attention that some instructors were asking their students to take a stand on the strike, and that he had received student and parent complaints.
"Such actions have been interpreted as coercion and an exploitation of the teacher-student relationship and in fact are a violation of students’ First Amendment rights as well as federal law," Blouin said in the email.
"I trust that our faculty and graduate students will not act in a way that harms the interests of students and their families, and that these instructors meet the legal, ethical and moral responsibilities for which they have been contracted. Failure to meet their responsibilities to their students, including timely submission of final grades, will result in serious consequences."
The Twitter account "#StrikeDownSam," which operates silencesam.com, live-tweeted the event, in which they detailed a lack of safety among teaching assistants and support from undergraduate activists.
On Thursday, they tweeted a screenshot from silencesam.com's call to action, calling on teaching assistants to withhold grades until the BOT reverses the Silent Sam relocation plan.
According to the Office of the University Registrar, final grades are due to students 72 hours after the final exam for a course is taken. If grades are not withheld, they are due between Dec. 10 and Dec. 17.
Bailey Aldridge contributed in reporting.
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