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Vaults, concrete and holograms: Here's what people wanted done with Silent Sam


Emails sent to UNC administration regarding Confederate monument Silent Sam reveal a variety of suggestions for the statue’s future – including placing the monument in an underground glass vault, putting it in a full-size replica of the Parthenon of Athens, half-burying it in concrete, melting it down into miniature replicas, making a hologram of the monument, and creating a new, transparent version of it. 

Chancellor Carol Folt and the UNC Board of Trustees created an email account on Sept. 24 for the community to share its ideas for the future of Silent Sam after it was pulled down by demonstrators on Aug. 20. The Daily Tar Heel requested the emails sent to this account and sent to former Chancellor Folt and other University administrators both before and after the monument’s removal under the Freedom of Information Act. 

The DTH received a total of 1,967 emails regarding Silent Sam and its future. Of those, 731 identified themselves as UNC graduates, 233 said they are now or once were UNC employees and 148 cited their Southern or Confederate heritage. 

A common suggestion for the monument’s future was to place it in a museum, a cemetery or a Civil War Battleground, such at Bentonville Battlefield. 

A total of 542 people, or 27.5 percent, suggested it be put in one of these places. 

Several of the suggestions were similar to the plan former Chancellor Folt and the BOT presented to the UNC-system Board of Governors in December on what they would do with the Confederate monument. 

The plan, which was eventually struck down by the BOG, included building a freestanding “University History and Education Center” that would house the monument. The center would have cost an estimated $5.3 million in building costs and $800,000 for additional operations. 

This plan was met with confusion about the idea's origin and a negative response from UNC student activists, who protested the proposal on Franklin Street on Dec. 3.

Five members of the BOG were assigned to guide campus administration through the decision-making process. The new deadline to report back is on March 15, one month from Friday. 

Mark Crescenzi, chairperson of the UNC Department of Political Science, sent an email on Oct. 13 suggesting a similar solution if the statue could not be moved off campus. 

“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,” he said in the email. “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 told The Daily Tar Heel in December that he did not have any discussions with the University's administration related to Silent Sam, and that he does not support the December proposal. 

Several other emails included similar ideas. 

“I was wondering if the university might create a designated space ( small building) to house the statue on another part of campus away from Franklin Street,” one person said in an email sent on Oct. 3

“The statue, minus the pedestal, should be placed in an interior exhibit somewhere on campus. Perhaps in a new dedicated museum space that can include other relics from the university's past,” read an email sent on Oct. 4

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Who wanted it back up?

Out of everyone who responded, 27 percent, or 531 people, explicitly stated in their email that they wanted the monument put back up where it previously stood in McCorkle Place.

Of the UNC graduates who responded, 17.37 percent suggested this. Of those who cited their Southern or Confederate heritage, 34.46 percent wanted it put back. Of University faculty and staff who sent an email, only 3.43 percent wrote they wanted the statue put back where it previously stood. 

Of those who emailed saying they wanted the monument put back, 14.9 percent also said they wanted those responsible for tearing it down arrested or expelled. 

“It is important that the perpetrators are prosecuted to the full extent of the law and the monument go right back up so that the protestors and community see that the University will not be intimidated and will be continue to be governed by the laws of the State of North Carolina and the United States of America,” read an email sent on Sept. 25. 

Of those who emailed suggesting the monument be put back up, 14.5 percent cited mob rule in reference to the demonstrators who tore the statue down. 

“The law says that that monument is to be repaired and protected. I am absolutely disgusted that you and the Chapel Hill police department allowed the destruction of the monument by an unruly mob of paid hooligans,” read an email sent Sept. 25. 

'Blatant, undisguised racism'

Of everyone who sent in an email, 676 people said the monument was discriminatory, a symbol of racism or white supremacy or they suggested it was problematic for it to remain on campus. 

Of the UNC graduates who responded, 46.92 percent expressed this belief. Of those who cited their Southern or Confederate heritage, 37.84 percent expressed this belief, and 53.6 percent of UNC employees expressed this belief. 

Only one person who expressed this belief also said they wanted the statue put back where it previously stood in McCorkle Place. But 36.69 percent of people who expressed this belief wanted the monument placed in a museum. 

An email sent on Aug. 21 from a person who graduated from UNC in 2010 and worked at the University until 2014 said the monument is nothing more than an attempt to “remind Black people of their place, of their constant proximity to violence and oppression.”

“Once, when I was walking to work at Graham Memorial, I saw a group of white male students standing on the steps of Silent Sam,” the email said. “They were wearing shirts with confederate flags and belting the song ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.’ In fact, they were purposely belting it in the direction of a black family trying to picnic on the lawn. Where else on campus would you find such blatant, undisguised racism?”

Sarah Lundgren and Maddy Arrowood contributed to reporting.

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