The University of North Carolina system Board of Governors has rejected a recommendation that UNC-Chapel Hill build a $5.3 million history center to house a disputed Confederate statue that students removed from campus earlier this year.
The Raleigh News & Observer reports the university is forming a committee to come up with a new proposal for the Silent Sam monument.
Board of Governors Chairman Harry Smith says the costly plan for a center to house the Silent Sam statue was “pretty tough for a lot of us to swallow.”
“We’re going to go back to the drawing board in a team-like approach and try to get it right, working together in a very healthy process,” Smith says. “The goal, again, is simply to do the right thing.”
The monument, which was toppled from a campus pedestal by protesters in August, has been the source of conflict and debate for years.
Speaking after the board meeting UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt says she appreciated having more time to come up with another relocation plan. She concedes that the recommendation for the new history center “hasn’t satisfied anyone, and we recognize that.”
Folt says the new committee will include fully exploring off-campus locations for the statue, which had been the strong preference of her administration and the campus Board of Trustees.
Smith says moving the statue off campus will require a change in a 2015 state law that prevents historic monuments from being moved in most cases. It will be up to the committee as to whether that’s a path they want to pursue, he says.
A lot of students have discussed their anxiety about having Silent Sam anywhere on campus, Smith says. “When you hear the students speak about their fear, safety and concern, it’s pretty real,” he says.
Leaders from the Chapel Hill campus faced intense opposition to their proposal to create a $5.3 million history center on campus to house the statue and provide its full historical context. Critics called it a shrine to the Confederate monument and said it would present a continuing safety risk.
North Carolina Tar Heels basketball coach Roy Williams, who also is a UNC alumnus, says he is opposed to having the statue re-erected on the Chapel Hill campus.
“In my own personal belief, I think that it would be best for it to not be here,” Williams says. “And I think some of those people in the decision-making business would rather it not be here, but the only people that can change that are the ones who can make the laws, and I haven’t spoken to those people about it.”