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‘It’s a disgrace’: UNC will give Silent Sam to Sons of Confederate Veterans after suit

silent sam

More than a year after its toppling, the UNC System announced Wednesday that Silent Sam will be turned over to The North Carolina Division Sons of Confederate Veterans Inc.

The SCV filed suit against the UNC System and Board of Governors after protesters toppled the monument in August and it was not returned to its pedestal. 

The settlement involving the UNC System, BOG and SCV stipulates that Silent Sam cannot be re-erected in any of the 14 N.C. counties with a UNC System institution. Additionally, the University will use non-state funds for a charitable trust of $2.5 million, held independently, dedicated to the care and preservation of the monument — including a potential building to house and display it. 

“The North Carolina Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans is pleased to announce that we have obtained custody of UNC’s Confederate memorial, known as ‘Silent Sam,’” the group’s commander, R. Kevin Stone, said in a statement. “We have been involved in ongoing negotiations and collaboration to achieve this outcome and we believe it is a fair result.” 

Shortly after the UNC System’s announcement of the settlement, interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz sent a campus-wide email to offer his “deepest appreciation” to UNC System President Bill Roper and the Board of Governors for resolving the issue. 

“This means Silent Sam will never return to our campus,” he said in the email. 

Activists on Twitter expressed disappointment with Guskiewicz’s response, saying it spoke too positively of the settlement agreement.  

Sophomore De’Ivyion Drew, a member of the Campus Safety Commission, said an issue with the University's handling of the situation is that the SCV will come back to campus anyway, regardless of the $2.5 million trust. 

"The issue is just misplaced, it’s mishandled and frankly, it’s disrespectful for the chancellor to speak for students — saying that this issue is resolved when frankly, in fact, there’s nothing resolvable about $2.5 million going towards a terrorist organization," Drew said. 

The trust, Drew said, is also disrespectful because the money could alternatively be going toward students and faculty for projects such as the new Asian American Center. 

Graduate student and activist James Sadler said that although some might have the immediate reaction of happiness that the monument will not return to campus, he is not satisfied by the University’s decision.   

“The fact that UNC is spending money to prop up this statue and harm communities elsewhere in the state is not a victory in my opinion, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the issue is resolved,” Sadler said. “It’s a disgrace.” 

Sadler noted the similarities between the $2.5 million trust and former Chancellor Carol Folt’s proposed plan last December to house Silent Sam in a $5 million freestanding building. 

“So spending half of that much to make it somebody else’s problem is consistent with how they think they should deal with issues surrounding white supremacy,” he said. 

Lindsay Ayling, a graduate student and activist, said the SCV is a white supremacist organization whose membership overlaps with the fringe of the alt-right. 

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“They have huge sway among the most disturbing, virulently racist organizations around the country, so for UNC to give them $2.5 million is outrageous and another example of UNC's support for white supremacy,” Ayling said. 

According to its website, the group began in 1896 and is the oldest organization for male descendants of Confederate soldiers. SCV's stated mission is "preserving the history and legacy of these heroes" who fought on the Confederate side of the Civil War. 

William Sturkey is a UNC professor and historian who specializes in the history of race in the South. 

“I don’t even have words for how insane this is,” Sturkey said in an email. “It’s like something out of a movie. Obviously, we should stop subsidizing the Confederacy.” 

The UNC System’s announcement of the agreement emphasized that SCV owns the rights, title and interests in the monument, and that the resolution complied with North Carolina monuments law. 

Additionally, the system said, the resolution allows the University and UNC System to focus on their mission of education and research. 

“This resolution allows the University to move forward and focus on its core mission of educating students,” BOG Chairperson Randy Ramsey said in a statement. 

The agreement follows an indefinite delay of the Silent Sam decision in March, which was preceded by the BOG extending the decision twice.