Un­clear if UNC fac­ulty will ad­vise on Silent Sam’s fate

The Herald Sun - - Front Page - BY JANE STANCILL js­tan­[email protected]­sob­server.com

A UNC-Chapel Hill ad­min­is­tra­tor said Fri­day he doesn’t know how or even whether cam­pus of­fi­cials will be in­volved in de­ter­min­ing the fate of the top­pled Silent Sam Con­fed­er­ate statue.

The UNC Fac­ulty Coun­cil — the elected fac­ulty body at the Chapel Hill cam­pus — passed a res­o­lu­tion to form a com­mit­tee that “shall be in­cluded by the univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tion in all plan­ning” for the ul­ti­mate dis­po­si­tion of the statue. It’s un­clear whether the fac­ulty ad­vi­sory panel will have a for­mal func­tion, or any sway, over what hap­pens, de­spite the res­o­lu­tion’s in­sis­tence.

UNC-Chapel Hill Provost Bob Blouin told the as­sem­bled pro­fes­sors that he and Chan­cel­lor Carol Folt have re­ceived no di­rec­tions yet about what’s next, fol­low­ing last month’s ap­point­ment of a spe­cial UNC Board of Gover­nors com­mit­tee tasked with de­vel­op­ing a plan for the mon­u­ment by March 15.

“It has not been iden­ti­fied ex­actly what our role is in this task force,” Blouin said. “At least as of right now, we don’t have for­mal stand­ing on the task force.”

Blouin said the hol­i­days may have stalled the progress a bit, and he and Folt are await­ing in­struc­tions “as to how we can be help­ful mov­ing for­ward with that process,” adding, “The Board of Gover­nors, at least for the time be­ing, owns this process now.”

Sev­eral fac­ulty mem­bers said the cam­pus should make its de­sire for en­gage­ment clear to the Board of Gover­nors com­mit­tee, cit­ing a broader sense of UNC’s “own­er­ship” by the fac­ulty and stu­dents.

“I’m disappointed to hear that in the month since the Board of Gover­nors made this de­ci­sion, they have not deigned to com­mu­ni­cate to you or the chan­cel­lor what they have in mind. That to me, in ad­di­tion to all of the is­sues ... just seems like colos­sally bad or­ga­ni­za­tional management,” said Ed Fisher, pro­fes­sor in the School of Pub­lic Health. “I’m won­der­ing if there are ways that we as a fac­ulty and as the ad­min­is­tra­tion, with re­spect and po­lite­ness, can be more as­sertive in sug­gest­ing to them what role we would like to have in their de­lib­er­a­tions.”

Folt was not at the meet­ing, but Fac­ulty Chair Les­lie Parise told fac­ulty that “she is on our

side on this,” and is at­tempt­ing to “thread a nee­dle.”

“She puts 150 per­cent ef­fort in to try to move this cam­pus for­ward in so many ways,” Parise added.

The coun­cil passed a res­o­lu­tion last year echo­ing a state­ment by black pro­fes­sors who want the statue and its pedestal moved off the cam­pus per­ma­nently.

Harry Wat­son, a his­tory pro­fes­sor, said there needs to be an in­clu­sive process if any fu­ture rec­om­men­da­tion is to be ac­cepted by stu­dents and oth­ers. “We’re not go­ing to achieve any kind of peace on this is­sue with­out some form of work­able com­mu­nity con­sen­sus on what the out­come is,” Wat­son said.

He said the fac­ulty and ad­min­is­tra­tion should reach out to the Board of Gover­nors and ad­vo­cate that “stu­dents be sys­tem­at­i­cally in­volved in the dis­cus­sions.”

Parise said she was “a tad” more op­ti­mistic about where the Silent Sam dis­cus­sion is head­ing. “I re­ally do think we’re turn­ing a corner on this,” she said.

Parise will ap­point mem­bers to the ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee in the next week or two af­ter nom­i­na­tions have been made.

Other cam­pus dis­cus­sions this week have been rocky.

Grad­u­ate stu­dents who have led some of the Silent Sam protests have called for a boy­cott of a se­ries of de­part­men­tal meet­ings be­tween grad­u­ate stu­dents and Kevin Guskiewicz, dean of the Col­lege of Arts and Sci­ences. Guskiewicz has said he wants to talk with stu­dents about their stipend pay and im­prov­ing their sit­u­a­tions.

The meet­ings were launched af­ter a group of grad stu­dents threat­ened to with­hold their stu­dents’ grades late last year af­ter Folt and the Chapel Hill trustees pro­posed a $5.3 mil­lion his­tory cen­ter on cam­pus that would house Silent Sam. Shortly there­after, the Board of Gover­nors re­jected the pro­posal for the new cen­ter.

On Thurs­day af­ter­noon, signs were posted out­side the dean’s meet­ings ask­ing stu­dents not to go in. A group of stu­dents held plac­ards, and a few took signs into a meet­ing of the his­tory and po­lit­i­cal sci­ence depart­ment.

Lind­say Ayling, a doc­toral stu­dent in his­tory, was among those urg­ing the boy­cott.

She listed a se­ries of at­tempts by stu­dents for months to en­gage with ad­min­is­tra­tors on the Silent Sam is­sue, to no avail. She called the talk of higher stipend amounts to “a bribe.”

“Be­cause the ad­min­is­tra­tion does not re­spond to our ar­gu­ments, we have to put pres­sure on them through dis­rup­tive tac­tics,” she said.

“This is an­other dis­rup­tive tac­tic just to say that we don’t be­lieve that they’re ac­tu­ally lis­ten­ing to us.”

The meet­ing Thurs­day af­ter­noon was sparsely at­tended. One par­tic­i­pant left the meet­ing and told pro­test­ers they should not be in­tim­i­dat­ing other stu­dents.

Blouin praised Guskiewicz on Fri­day for his ef­fort to talk to stu­dents in small meet­ings.

“He has re­ally done an in­cred­i­ble job of reach­ing out and try­ing his best to lis­ten to a lot of the grad­u­ate stu­dents and those who have con­cerns well be­yond the sin­gle is­sue of the Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ment.”

A planned event on cam­pus by a Con­fed­er­ate her­itage group on Sun­day has been can­celed by the group, Blouin told the fac­ulty. The weather fore­cast may have played a role in that, he said.

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