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The Daily Tar Heel

Unraveling the story behind the Silent Sam lawsuit

How the Board of Governors' settlement with the Sons of Confederate Veterans was undone

UNC faculty has expressed opposition to the University's $2.5 million settlement which gave the Sons of Confederate Veterans $2.5 million and 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. 

Police surround Silent Sam on Aug. 20 after the Confederate monument was pulled down by demonstrators. 

Students, faculty and community members organized protests after the removal, asking the administration to keep the statue down. The UNC System Board of Governors gave UNC's Board of Trustees and then-Chancellor Carol Folt a Nov. 15 deadline, which was later extended, to come up with a plan.

When Folt and the BOT announced their plan — a $5.3 million freestanding building to house the monument in Odum Village on South Campus — protesters took to Franklin Street and teaching assistants went on a grading strike in opposition

The BOG denied the proposal, citing problems with using state funds and safety concerns. Five members were assigned to help reach a conclusion and report back by March 15, a deadline that later got pushed

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.

Kevin Stone, commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans' North Carolina chapter, poses next to Silent Sam after suing and immediately settling with the UNC System and Board of Governors, a deal that gave the group possession of the Confederate monument and $2.5 million in UNC System money for its "preservation and benefit." Photo courtesy of SCV members. 

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. 

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(From left) UNC students De'Ivyion Drew, Tamia Sanders, Chris Suggs and Keoana Nettles lay out several grievances they have with UNC police to Chief Perry. These criticisms referenced low officer turnout at public meetings, Chief Perry's appearance at the protest, and police behavior at protests. UNC's Black Student Movement, Black Congress and student and local activists convened in McCorkle place before marching to South Building on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019 at 1 p.m. The activists named the event "Silent Sam is Not "Resolved"" and protested the University giving $ 2.5 million trust fund to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which were also given Silent Sam, the Confederate monument torn down by activists on the first day of classes in 2018.

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. 

Activists make demands for Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz on the floor of the Faculty Governance Council for "Reparations, retract or resign" on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019 in Kerr Hall. They referred to a settlement between the University and the Sons of Confederate Veterans to give the SCV Silent Sam and a trust fund of $2.5 million.

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. 12, 2019 — WRAL reported that the Mellon Foundation pulled a $1.5 million grant after learning about the SCV deal. 

Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz speaks during an event welcoming him as UNC's 12th permanent chancellor at CURRENT Art Space on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. Guskiewicz was nominated and approved during a Board of Governors meeting on the same day.

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 — Ramsey called 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. 22, 2020 — Citing the DTH's reporting, former executive director of Democracy North Carolina Bob Hall filed a campaign finance complaint. He alleged the SCV violated multiple state campaign finance laws by forming and funding the NC Heritage PAC.

Jan. 29, 2020 — UNC graduates known as the Black Pioneers, who were politically active during the Civil Rights Movement, submitted an amicus brief in favor of reversing the Silent Sam settlement. 

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.

Judge Allen Baddour looks on as SCV lawyer Boyd Stourges speaks during the hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. Judge Baddour ruled to vacate the consent order an dismiss the lawsuit regarding Silent Sam.

Feb. 12, 2020 — Judge Baddour ruled to dismiss the SCV lawsuit, undoing the settlement. Baddour said the SCV did not have legal claim to the monument. When asked about what will happen to the $2.5 million trust, Baddour said: 

"The trust is only in existence as a result of the consent order, which has been vacated. So if I'm vacating the order, I think by operation of law that would dissolve the trust." 

Guskiewicz said in a statement later that night that he stands by his position that the monument should not return to campus. 

Hannah Lang, Preston Lennon, Charlie McGee, Allie Kelly and other DTH reporters contributed reporting to this story.