UNC's Confederate Memorial Was Officially Removed From Campus — But The Battle Didn’t End There
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Chancellor, Carol Folt, took a stand on Monday by announcing plans to remove the base of the university's Confederate statue, which was toppled during protests last August. She also announced she would be leaving her position at the end of the year. But Folt's decision to move the Confederate statue base led to the UNC chancellor's ouster coming much sooner, as the UNC Board of Governors voted to accept her resignation "effective January 31, 2019" — months earlier than she intended.
The decision was announced in a press release from the University of North Carolina System on Tuesday, less than a day after the base of Confederate statue "Silent Sam" and its related plaques were removed. It was brief and did not cite a reason; Bustle has reached out to the University of North Carolina System and UNC-Chapel Hill for comment.
Some members of the Board of Governors, however, were far from pleased by Folt's decision to remove the base. Chair Harry Smith issued a statement after Monday's meeting criticizing Folt for not keeping the board "privy" to her plans. "We are incredibly disappointed at this intentional action," Smith wrote in his statement. "It lacks transparency and it undermines and insults the Board’s goal to operate with class and dignity."
Not everyone disagreed with how the chancellor handled it. Three members of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees wrote a message in support of Folt. "The chancellor has ultimate authority over campus public safety, and we agree Chancellor Folt is acting properly to preserve campus security. Nothing is more important than keeping our campus community and visitors as safe as possible."
Folt said on Monday that her main reasoning for the base's removal was safety. "Despite our best efforts, even since that time, threats have continued to grow and place our community at serious risk. This led me to the action that I authorized," Folt said in a conference call with reporters, according to the Associated Press. "While I recognize that some may not agree with my decision to remove the base and tablets now, I'm confident that this was the right one for our community."
In her letter to the community announcing her departure, Folt went further and noted that "the presence of the remaining parts of the monument on campus poses a continuing threat both to the personal safety and well-being of our community and to our ability to provide a stable, productive educational environment." She added, "No one learns at their best when they feel unsafe."
The future of the statue is still not settled, though. The Board of Governors has been planning to review proposals in March, after denying a proposal by Folt to put the statue in a new $5.3 million building.
"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," Board Chair Smith said in his statement. "We will do so with proper governance and oversight in a way that respects all constituencies and diverse views on this issue. The safety and security of the campus community and general public who visit the institution remains paramount.”
Folt's decision may not be permanent, but it does make the statue's return more complicated — both literally and politically.