Carol Folt has finally reclaimed the moral high ground – but at the cost of her job. After six years as chancellor, Folt announced that she will be resigning in May 2019. And for that, the Editorial Board, for the first time this academic year, commends her.
Resignation seemed like the only outcome to a situation where compromise only exacerbated tensions on campus. Siding with students and faculty would alienate the conservative General Assembly. Siding with these authorities would, frankly, be racist and uphold white supremacy. Taking middle ground, the path Folt naively chose, angered everyone and displayed a clear lack of leadership in a University that so desperately needed it.
In her official resignation statement, Folt said she authorized the removal of Silent Sam’s pedestal from McCorkle Place. It’s a move that was a long time coming. For the Editorial Board, it represents the struggles the anti-Silent Sam activists have faced against institutions such as the administration, law enforcement and even this very paper, coming to a culmination. The Chapel Hill community, finally moving toward the “new and the next,” as Folt stated in her statement of resignation, will be indebted to these activists for generations to come. And the Editorial Board would like to thank them.
The Board hopes that this small but significant victory is evidence of Folt’s greater commitment to finally ridding our campus of the platform it has given to racism and white supremacy for so many years.
Although Folt has brought many improvements to the University, including Campaign for Carolina, record-breaking research expenditures and the largest first-year class in the University’s history, her tenure has been overshadowed by her passivity toward Silent Sam and a lack of transparency to the media and student body. She disregarded the concerns of students and faculty of color as she placed them on the front covers of diversity brochures. Seemingly every decision about Silent Sam, including the proposed $5.3 million shrine on South Campus, was made without considering the students who are the foundation of this University.
But for her remaining four months as Chancellor, Folt has the opportunity to reverse the legacy she is going to leave behind. There are no consequences to the course of action Folt decides to take — by May, she will be without a job anyways.
Now is the time to correct her wrongs, to truly be a champion for this University and the students and faculty who belong to it. Removing the pedestal is a step in the right direction, but there is work to be done. There are still buildings named after white supremacists, no clear solution to Silent Sam, systemic oppression that plagues our campus. The Editorial Board can understand the legal implications and politics behind Folt’s former attitude toward Silent Sam, but her passivity has no excuse now.
In the remaining months, the Editorial Board would also encourage Folt and the administration to be more transparent and include students and faculty in discussions involving the University. The Editorial Board has championed for this numerous times throughout the year; opaqueness is what led to the widespread distrust toward Folt and her eventual downfall.
Silent Sam has become the face of the University. It’s unfortunate, and has been perpetuated by Folt’s lack of leadership. Folt is not the first administrative official to resign this year — UNC-system President Margaret Spellings and Vice Chancellor Winston Crisp also stepped down in October, their exits presumably related to the Silent Sam debacle. The inaction and lack of transparency from the administration in response to Silent Sam has resulted in an avalanche of backlash from the student body, faculty, alumni and the general public, but the University has seemingly refused to give in to the pressure until now.
Silent Sam has tarnished the very name of this University. It held us back, contradicting the very ideas of enrichment and forward thinking that the University has claimed to champion for 225 years. It’s a disgrace, and one that will plague us for years to come. Carol Folt has played one of the biggest hands in the defamation of UNC, but she now has a chance for redemption in the following months.
We hope she takes that chance.
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