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BREAKING: Interim UNC-system President Roper against Silent Sam returning to old site

BOG Bill Roper
UNC system Interim President Dr. Bill Roper makes his report at the start of a meeting of the Board of Governors at the Friday Center on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019.

Update, 7:55 p.m.: By Thursday, UNC system Interim President Bill Roper hopes to appoint an interim chancellor — emphasis on interim. 

At Friday’s Faculty Executive Committee meeting, he said he was looking for someone who is familiar with UNC, who can make a stand for their positions and who Roper can trust to do the job well.

“This person should be thoughtful and open in the way they approach life, and people, that they have a desire to be open and transparent,” he said.

Interim UNC-system President Dr. Bill Roper said Friday that Silent Sam should not be returned to McCorkle Place, according to the News & Observer. 

He did not say what should ultimately happen to the statue, but the Board did vote to release an after-action report on the night of Aug. 20, when demonstrators pulled down Silent Sam

 The Board of Governors has been working alongside campus leaders to plan the next steps for the Confederate monument, with a current March 15 deadline to offer a revised recommendation on its future. 

Chancellor Carol Folt is stepping down Jan. 31, and Roper said his “top priority” this past week has been to find a suitable interim chancellor for UNC and that as a part of the process, he planned to speak to students and faculty later in the day. Additionally, Roper said a national search will take place at a later point to find a permanent chancellor. 

Roper said candidates should have a good understanding of the University and UNC system, the “gravitas” to lead and the trust of both University leaders and Roper himself.  

“It will need to be someone who knows the situation here and who is known by the people here, so the person — she, he — can hit the ground running without needing months to get up to speed about what our situation is,” Roper said to the News & Observer.

Roper also spoke about Folt's role at the University.

“Carol Folt is a friend and an outstanding leader of an outstanding flagship, who has stewarded and guided her university through treacherous waters,” Roper said. “UNC owes Carol a debt of gratitude for her service and commitment.”

Harry L. Smith, Jr., chairperson of the BOG, also expressed gratitude for the work Folt has done. 

“I want to stay focused, and we should all stay focused, on the many great things that Carol did and accomplished that are done at Carolina,” Smith said. “We live in a time when we forget all of the great stuff that happens and lose challenges that may come, but the fact is, many great things were done and accomplished in her tenure.”

Smith said he wanted to thank the UNC community, as well, saying he knows “it’s been tough” and that the board welcomes constructive criticism. 

“I understand the passion, and rightfully so,” Smith said. “And as I tell everybody, everybody gets their passion out in different ways. Sometimes it can sting, but the fact is, that’s what makes the country great and I have nothing but respect for that.”

However, Smith also asked for patience with regard to the board’s upcoming decisions. 

“We will make decisions sometimes that create passionate responses and that’s okay,” Smith said. “We’re going to stay focused on the result. On that, one of the things I would ask, that I think is fair, is to judge us as we go. Judge us we go, and certainly judge us on the outcome.”

Cynthia Dong contributed reporting.

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