Members of UNC Board of Governors voice concern over handling of 'Silent Sam' statue

Posted September 7
Updated September 8

Barrier placed around UNC 'Silent Sam' statue

— More than a dozen members of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors are upset with President Margaret Spellings and Chairman Lou Bissette over a lack of communication regarding the handling of the Silent Sam Statue.

Fifteen members of the 28-member board signed on to the Aug. 22 letter, which voices frustration about a letter Spellings and UNC-CH Chancellor Carol Folt sent to Gov. Roy Cooper in regard to the “Silent Sam” confederate monument.

Live video: UNC Board of Governors meetings via UNC-TV

On Aug. 21, Folt and Spellings sent the letter to Cooper’s office expressing fear the statue could spark protests that could lead to property damage. The letter was sent one day ahead of a rally in which hundreds of students marched through Franklin Street to demand the removal of the statue.

In the Aug. 22 letter, board members say that the correspondence to Cooper was not vetted through the entire board and was “a unilateral decision” that was made “without sufficient board knowledge or input.”

The letter states that a conference call involving the full Board of Governors should have been arranged or a rough draft should have been circulated among members for approval prior to its delivery to Cooper.

“We do not believe that letter was the right course of action to take to achieve the top priority of protecting our students and secondarily, our campuses in public property. As a matter of fact, we believe it had the opposite effect,” the letter states. “The letter exuded a weakness and hand wringing that does not accurately reflect the board’s opinion about how the potential of campus unrest should be treated.”

Members who signed on to the letter said they believe Cooper’s response to the letter, which was widely circulated in the media, “dramatically and dangerously escalated the potential for unrest and violence at the Chapel Hill campus and perhaps others as well.”

In a reply, dated Aug. 23, Spellings and Bissette said formal procedures were followed when the Board of Governors’ seven committee chairs met to discuss the threat surrounding the Silent Sam statue and consulted attorneys, before discussing a plan to send the letter to Cooper.

Three people were arrested in connection with the Silent Sam protest, including 19-year-old Claude Wilson, a UNC student who was taken into custody after officers said he retreated from the crowd and pushed away officers when he was told to move.

Board members in their letter took further issue with the way Spellings and Bissette communicate with board members on a regular basis.

The letter alleges that many members of the Board of Governors learned of an incident in which a 5-year-old boy was stabbed to death by his mother in a graduate student housing complex through the media and people on campus rather than through Spellings or Bissette.

“When we did finally hear from you, far too many hours after the tragic event, it was an afterthought (3rd paragraph of a 3 paragraph letter that began ‘in addition’) in a letter about another matter.

In regards to the death, the letter from Spellings and Bissette said the media was alerted to the crime through social media and other sources before they were able to get enough information to release to the Board of Governors.

Board members say Spellings' and Bissette's choice to communicate with committee chairs, who are appointed by the chairman and not the Board of Governors, is unacceptable and leads to the full opinion of the board being excluded from important issues.

“We do recognize there is a dissatisfaction with the approach to information flow, and we plan to reserve time at the next board meeting to discuss steps we can take to make improvements,” the letter from Spellings and Bissette read.


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  • John Johnson Sep 8, 6:14 p.m.
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    More Foreign Paid American Haters Trying to Remove Statutes Honoring "American" Veterans who Fought for this Country Is Offensive to Real Americans.. But Enabling those (85% on Governmental Funding who Can But Want Work) who Freeload Off Welfare, Food Stamps, Free Housing/Education Off the Back of the American Tax Payers.. But for Those So-Call that's Been Here illegally 20- 30+ Year, then WHY Haven't They Applied for Citizenship !? Something to Hide!! Criminals Do!!

  • Matthew Rose Sep 8, 3:59 p.m.
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    View quoted thread

    sorry matt but they are not immigrants they are illegal law breakers. immigrants are the people that went the correct path like my family did. the country does not have an immigration problem it has and illegal immigration problem.

  • Matt Wood Sep 8, 12:19 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Oh, and Spellings is also publicly in favor of removing Silent Sam and supports DACA. THAT's why the Republican BOG is on this witch hunt - imagine that, a Republican that actually supports immigrants and civil rights!

  • Matt Wood Sep 8, 12:16 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Actually, Spellings was elected to the position of President of UNC schools by the majority-Republican UNC BOG she is currently battling with in this article.

  • Jerry Sawyer Sep 8, 10:08 a.m.
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    We have become such a sick country. May God help us. Oh, I am sorry, I said the word "God".I should be ashamed of myself.

  • Ryan Kurtz Sep 8, 9:48 a.m.
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    There's a very simple reason for all of this disdain toward Spellings: She's a white/female Republican in the education sector who was appointed by George W. Bush. This is why all the snowflakes at the UNC schools threw fits when she was appointed. The media, and portions of the UNC-BOG, will do anything to see her go because she has an affiliation with an opposing political party and ideals that has no place in the education system according to them.

  • Linda Tally Sep 8, 9:02 a.m.
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    And just what was the Board or UNC supposed to do about the little boy's death? It was a done deal which did not involve any policy this whinny collection of Board members could alter. Sheesh - hush up, complainers. Just hush.

  • Brent Hall Sep 8, 7:45 a.m.
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    Talk about overreach and control?? Wow, this Board must think the POTUS should check with them before any of his actions