As the national argument over the appropriateness of monuments deemed offensive to marginalized communities, specifically people of color, carries on, some at UNC are calling for increased action by the powers that be.
Chancellor Carol Folt has maintained that she would order the Silent Sam statue to be removed if she felt the university had the legal authority to do so, but cites a 2015 law requiring approval by the North Carolina Historical Commission for the removal or relocation of any monument, memorial or work of art owned by the state.
After the North Carolina Historical Commission voted last month to establish a committee to study the issue and delay taking action until their next meeting in April of 2018, assistant professor of History at UNC William Sturkey is questioning the importance of the law in the first place.
“To be honest with you, I care very little about [the law],” Sturkey said on WCHL’s September Community Forum. “Perhaps I’m not the upstanding citizen that I should be in terms of observing that particular law. Not that I’ve toppled any statues or anything like that, but the whole thing seems really silly and ridiculous.”
UNC Chancellor Emeritus James Moeser states that taking a hard stance over issues like this when your job could be at stake can seem easier said than done.
“Those are the things that make one lose sleep at night, trying to decide to make a stand or not over an issue,” said Moeser.
During Moeser’s time as Chancellor at UNC he pushed for proper contextualization of Silent Sam and monuments like it rather than removal.
However, after seeing the statue become a rally cry for white supremacists, Moeser has stated that he is for the removal of the statue.
Sturkey believes that despite a clear and simple moral solution, the statue will likely remain standing for the foreseeable future due to bureaucratic red tape.
“The historical commission clearly isn’t going to do anything,” said Sturkey. “There’s sort of this he said, she said going back and forth between the governor, the president of the university system and the chancellor, and it’s very unclear.”
The community forum can be heard in its entirety on our website.