UNC – Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt announced on Monday her intention to step down at the end of the academic year. She also announced that she had authorized the removal of the remaining base and plaques of the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam; that decision apparently caught the UNC System Board of Governors by surprise.
The 17-campus system’s Board of Governors called an emergency meeting on Monday afternoon. Just over 30 minutes after the meeting was announced, it began via conference call and immediately moved into closed session to discuss “personnel and legal matters.”
After more than an hour in closed session, UNC – Chapel Hill issued a message to the campus community from Folt announcing her decision to step down and remove the remnants of Silent Sam.
“The Board of Governors was not privy to the Chancellor’s announcement prior to her statement being made public,” chairman Harry Smith said in a statement issued by system officials.
The board continued meeting in closed session for roughly three hours before opening the session and adjourning.
“We are incredibly disappointed at this intentional action. It lacks transparency and it undermines and insults the Board’s goal to operate with class and dignity,” Smith wrote. “We strive to ensure that the appropriate stakeholders are always involved and that we are always working in a healthy and professional manner.”
The board had rejected the initial proposal brought forward by the campus administration regarding the future of Silent Sam. The UNC – Chapel Hill Board of Trustees voted to recommend construction of a new $5.3 million facility to house the monument and allow for space for teaching and exhibits. The Board of Governors turned that proposal down in a December vote and appointed five members of its board to work with the campus to bring a new recommendation to the system board in mid-March.
“Moving forward, the Board will continue to work tirelessly and collaboratively with all relevant parties to determine the best way forward for UNC-Chapel Hill. We will do so with proper governance and oversight in a way that respects all constituencies and diverse views on this issue,” Smith wrote. “The safety and security of the campus community and general public who visit the institution remains paramount.”
Several members of the UNC – Chapel Hill Board of Trustees issued a statement supporting Folt and her decision.