Unraveling the story behind the Silent Sam lawsuit
How the Board of Governors' settlement with the Sons of Confederate Veterans was undone
Protesters knocked Silent Sam down before the first day of classes in August 2018, and since then UNC and UNC System leaders have tried to plan for its future. On Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, Judge Allen Baddour ruled to vacate the consent order an dismiss the lawsuit regarding Silent Sam.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article ran with an incorrect name. Randy Ramsey, chairperson of the Board of Governors, called the legal action by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law irresponsible on Dec. 16. The article has been updated to reflect the change. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.
Protesters toppled Silent Sam before the first day of classes in August 2018, and since then UNC and UNC System leaders have tried to plan for its future. After a court decision this week, the monument's relocation is once again uncertain.
Months later, a settlement between the BOG and the North Carolina Division Sons of Confederate Veterans Inc. has been dismissed and it is unclear what will happen to Silent Sam.
Here's what happened over the course of the SCV lawsuit until the court dismissed it Wednesday:
Nov. 21, 2019 — The Sons of Confederate Veterans received $74,999 in a settlement with the Board of Governors. The settlement stated that the SCV would not display Confederate flags or banners on system campuses. The amount of $74,999 was exactly $1 below the threshold where the N.C. Attorney General would have to approve the deal.
Nov. 26, 2019 — Interim System President Bill Roper sent Guskiewicz a letter the day before the BOG and SCV entered a $2.5 million settlement and to transfer possession of Silent Sam. Roper asked Guskiewicz to arrange for a $2,574,999 transfer in non-state funds to the UNC System Office.
Nov. 27, 2019 — The UNC System sent a press release the day before Thanksgiving, announcing the SCV would receive possession of Silent Sam and a $2.5 million trust. Under the settlement, signed by Judge Allen Baddour:
The SCV owned the monument
Silent Sam could not be re-erected in any of the 14 counties with a UNC System institution
The $2.5 million trust could be used for the statue's care and preservation, including a possible building to display the monument.
Guskiewicz sent a campus-wide email later that day, expressing appreciation to the BOG for making the deal. He emphasized that Silent Sam would not return to campus.
Dec. 2, 2019 — A letter leaked from Kevin Stone, commander of the N.C. SCV, calling the settlement deal a strategic victory. Stone talked about private meetings between the SCV leadership, lawyers and BOG members before the suit was filed and settled on Nov. 27.
Dec. 5, 2019 — UNC Black Student Movement and Black Congress organized a protest against the settlement agreement. Black Congress asked alumni to stop donating to the University — with the exception of programs that advance marginalized people on campus.
Dec. 6, 2019 —Student activists demonstrated at a Faculty Council meeting. When Guskiewicz was introduced to speak, they chanted at him, "Reparations, retract or resign." Faculty members called on the Chancellor to make a public statement against the BOG decision.
Dec. 9, 2019 — Guskiewicz told the University community he sent a letter to Roper and BOG chairperson Randy Ramsey about “concerns” with the settlement. In the letter, he emphasized that the trust could only be used for the monument’s care and preservation. Law professor Eric Muller said this was false information, since the trust could also be used for a building to house the monument.
Dec. 11, 2019 — The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law sent a letter to Ripley Rand, the attorney representing the UNC System, opposing the settlement. The letter called into question the SCV’s claim to the monument and said the BOG went around the law to make the settlement happen.
UNC students and faculty later partnered with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in their motion to intervene in the settlement.
Dec. 13, 2019 —Guskiewicz was named UNC's 12th permanent chancellor by Roper as protests against the Silent Sam settlement took place outside.
Dec. 16, 2020 — Ramseycalled the legal motion by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law irresponsible.
News outlets, including The Daily Tar Heel, found out about the first SCV settlement on Dec. 16. Five BOG members wrote an op-ed in the News & Observer that morning mentioning it, and the UNC System released requested public records containing the same information that afternoon.
Dec. 20, 2020 — Baddour said he would reconsider the $2.5 million settlement.
Jan. 7, 2020 — DTH Media Corp. filed suit against the BOG, saying the board violated Open Meetings Law when deciding on the Silent Sam settlement. The $74,999 and $2.5 million settlements with the SCV were negotiated in secret in violation of the law, the DTH complaint said.
Jan 30, 2020 — Though the Nov. 21 settlement agreement did not mention Silent Sam, the DTH's Charlie McGee reported that the $74,999 paid to the SCV in November later enabled the group to sue for possession of the monument. The funds went to the group’s purchase of Silent Sam from the United Daughters of the Confederacy.