The Committee has called to block the Board of Governors’ $2.5 million trust deal with the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Some of those involved would like to see the money returned to the University in full, and the monument destroyed as a public safety hazard according to North Carolina Monuments Law.
Mel Watt, former director of The Federal Housing Finance Agency under President Obama and a 1967 UNC graduate, said he hopes that having support from over 70 distinguished alumni will help to give weight to the interveners' case.
“I’m offended by the notion that we would be colluding with a white supremacist organization, and that we would pay them money and that it would stand,” Watt said.
He said he feels hopeful Baddour will rule against the SCV.
Watt said he is involved in the case both as a UNC graduate and as a UNC Black Pioneer. The Pioneers captures the group of Black students who graduated from UNC during the first 20 years of integration at the University.
Otto White, class of 1965, said he was active in civil rights demonstrations while at UNC.
“So many of the issues I was dealing with in the 1960s are still issues that exist in 2020,” he said.
White said he was appalled by the BOG’s announcement of the SCV settlement.
“I just had to speak up,” he said. “That was wrong. I had no choice.”
Monuments like Silent Sam and actions like the BOG deal, White said, are constant reminders of hate and discrimination for African-American citizens.
Watt said the Sons of Confederate Veterans have misrepresented the history of the statue. He said he sees no standing for the SCV’s case and that the group never owned the statue.
He said the court can’t base the approval of an agreement on false statements. The SCV, he said, puts forward a misrepresentation of the genesis of the money that paid for the monument.
“Money is money,” Watt said. “It’s not like a tangible object. Once it becomes part of the University coffer it can be used for constructive purposes or destructive purposes. We believe this is a destructive purpose.”
If the decision cannot be reversed, White said, the University must provide equal or greater funding toward scholarships for students of color.
“Oftentimes, issues like this are forgotten and fall under the rug,” White said. “But $2.5 million would go a long way in dispelling hate.”
White said he thinks alumni — especially Black alumni — need to play a role in projecting the University as an institution for all people. The monument itself is not the problem, he said, but represents larger issues of racism and exclusion.
“It’s only a monument," he said. “There should be more actions to right history.”