BOONE — The Appalachian State University Faculty Senate passed a resolution on Jan. 14 noting its opposition to the $2.5 million settlement made by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors to a private organization in relation to a two-year long battle about a Confederate statue.
Tim Smith, professor and chair of App State’s Department of Anthropology, presented the resolution to faculty senators as well as a brief history of the conflict regarding a statue known on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus as “Silent Sam.”
According to Smith, UNC-Chapel Hill alumni raised money on behalf of the United Daughters of the Confederacy who requested that UNC-Chapel Hill erect a monument to Confederate veterans in 1913. In August 2018, the Silent Sam statue was torn down by protestors who felt it represented racism. According to The Daily Tar Heel, this is not the first time the statue has been called into question. Protests were held through the 1960s and 1970s about the statue and its representation.
Smith explained that since 2018, questions have been raised about the future of the statue and whether it should stand once again or possibly be housed in a museum. The Sons of Confederate Veterans filed a lawsuit against the UNC system as well as the UNC Board of Governors, claiming that the university system had violated the terms of the gift, according to Smith.
The day before Thanksgiving, it was announced that the UNC system, its Board of Governors and UNC-Chapel Hill had struck an agreement with the Sons of Confederate Veterans in which the property would be transferred over to the organization in addition to $2.5 million fund that is made up of non-state money, according to The Daily Tar Heel.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans’ North Carolina division released a statement on Nov. 27 stating that it was pleased to announce it had obtained custody of the memorial. It added that it had been in negotiations and collaboration to achieve that outcome and that it was a “fair result.” In response to a Facebook comment on its announcement by a person stating that the statue should be reinstalled at its original spot, a page administrator who identified himself as Second Lt. Division Commander Andrew Johnson stated that he found that option to be “short sighted and at worst foolish.”
“As soon as it goes up, it will get defaced, or torn down again,” Johnson stated in the Facebook comment. “It would be foolish to keep putting it up just for them to continue to tear it up.”
As a result of the settlement, Smith said that the spirit of the resolution was that the “use of UNC system money for this is a slap in the face” to students, faculty and staff in the UNC system. The resolutions states that as educators in the UNC system, faculty have a responsibility to make campuses a welcoming space for all people — regardless of race, sexuality, religion or other identifiers. It adds that this would include minority communities within the university “whose lives are threatened by white supremacy.”
“Sons of Confederate Veterans states on its website that its aim is to preserve ‘the history and legacy of those heroes so that future generations can understand the motives that animated the Southern cause,’” stated the Faculty Senate resolution. “A large part of that cause includes slavery, racism and white supremacy ... the granting of property and money to such an organization shows a form of support for those values.”
While the resolution ultimately passed, Barbara Howard — an associate professor of school administration in the Department of Leadership and Educational Studies — asked senators to postpone passing the resolution until its February meeting. She said that while she applauded the spirit of the resolution and felt the university should make a statement, she felt it was better to wait to see what other institutions were doing.
As vice chair of the UNC Faculty Assembly, Howard said she knew of a few institutions who did not want to engage in the controversy at the moment because of a fear that it may interfere with faculty raises for 2019-20 that had not yet been awarded. She added that Faculty Assembly was working on forming an advisory board of faculty representatives so that the UNC Board of Governors “doesn’t engage in this kind of ill-advised decision-making in the future.”
Other Faculty Senate members disagreed, and said the resolution should be passed now. Andrew Monroe, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, said that either the board had the courage of its convictions or it didn’t.
“If you’re not willing to stand up for a value that might cost you something, then I think you’re not willing to stand up for that value,” Monroe said.
The resolution states that App State condemns the transfer of UNC property and funds in support of a message that is “antithetical to the ideals of inclusiveness and diversity” of the university. It also calls on the Board of Governors to consider the demands of UNC-Chapel Hill faculty to resolve the issue.