Anonymous UNC Faculty Group Says It Will “Stand Down” on Threat to Remove Silent Sam | News

Anonymous UNC Faculty Group Says It Will “Stand Down” on Threat to Remove Silent Sam

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An anonymous group claiming to be senior faculty at UNC Chapel Hill says it will "stand down" on its threat to remove a Confederate monument on campus — for now.

Via Twitter, the group said it had "received word" that Chancellor Carol Folt was preparing to ask Governor Roy Cooper to petition the North Carolina Historical Commission for urgent permission to remove the statue, which is known as Silent Sam.

A UNC spokesperson said she could not confirm that was the case.

"We do not know who is behind these statements and have not been in communication with any such group," Joanne Peters Denny told the INDY in an email.

Over the weekend, an anonymous group that identified itself as "a group of seventeen of your senior faculty (all at the Full or Endowed Chair level)" provided to The Daily Tar Heel a letter it had sent to Folt threatening to remove Silent Sam themselves if the university failed to do so by midnight Thursday. The student newspaper reported it had met with a professor who belonged to the group to confirm its existence, but did not have a list of its members.

Peters Denny confirmed Folt had received the letter, but cautioned "we have not been able to confirm its authenticity."

"Not cowed by bigots, intimated by white supremacists or fearful of retribution. We believe the confederate monument (Silent Sam) must be immediately moved to an appropriate setting that contextualizes and teaches the history of white supremacy, rather than glorifies it," the group wrote, adding that if they removed Silent Sam "it will be taken to a safe place where it will be curated for exhibition."

Since that letter came out, members of Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County (ACTBAC) have been reportedly standing watch around the monument. The group is classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a neo-Confederate hate group (ACTBAC says it is a group "willing and wanting to preserve our Southern rights").

"We will have eyes on Silent Sam day and night," a post on the ACTBAC NC Facebook reads. "We will not go to Chapel Hill and keep stirring the pot that the agitators there have attempted to do over and over. They have kicked and screamed so many times that even UNC has started to see that Silent Sam is not the issue. IT IS THE SICKNESS GROWING AROUND HIM THAT IS THE ISSUE."

Students have been calling for the removal of Silent Sam for decades, reaching a fever pitch this year, in the wake of a deadly white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville. Students as well as faculty in multiple departments have said the monument needs to be removed as a symbol of hate that makes people of color feel unsafe on campus.

"I avoid that part of campus every single day because I do not want to be confronted with the imagery that I am worth less than a person," Mya Roberson, who is conducting cancer research through a fellowship at UNC, told the UNC Board of Trustees at a public comment session on the monument in November.

The university, for its part, has said its hands are tied by a 2015 law that protects such monuments. Last summer, after protesters tore down a Confederate monument in Durham, Governor Cooper said the university could remove the statue as a matter of public safety, but the university said it disagreed with Cooper's interpretation of the law, which allows for the removal of a monument “a building inspector or similar official has determined poses a threat to public safety because of an unsafe or dangerous condition.” Folt has previously said she would "immediately move the statue in the interest of public safety" if the school could.

Last week the News & Observer reported that four people from the Campaign to Move Silent Sam had submitted petitions to the North Carolina Historical Commission seeking its removal.

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