UNC board chair: Effort to rescind 'Silent Sam' deal 'irresponsible'
As more people denounce an agreement by the University of North Carolina system to pay for a neo-Confederate group to take the controversial "Silent Sam" monument from the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, a legal effort to undo the deal heads to court on Friday.Posted — Updated
"We'll help the court also put into context who the Sons of Confederate Veterans are, what their mission is and how that mission conflicts with the mission of the university," said Elizabeth Haddix, managing attorney for the group.
Randy Ramsey, chairman of the UNC Board of Governors, which approved the deal, criticized the civil rights group, calling their efforts "irresponsible" and maintaining that the lawsuit risks the safety of students and others on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus.
"Law enforcement experts have made it crystal clear: returning the monument to campus would pose serious public safety risks to students, faculty and staff," Ramsey said in a statement. "The lawful settlement approved by the court ensures the monument never returns to any county where a UNC system institution is located, and the UNC system and the board will continue to defend solutions that protect public safety."
UNC system spokesman Josh Ellis reiterated that position in an email to WRAL News: "This organization has made it clear they want to undo the settlement. If you undo the settlement, it would return the monument to UNC-Chapel Hill."
Haddix said there's no intention to return Silent Sam to the Chapel Hill campus, noting her clients have pushed for years for its removal. The monument could simply be declared surplus state property, she said, and state law sets out several ways to dispose of such items.
"It could be auctioned. It could be donated. There's lots of possibilities, but certainly, transferring it to the Sons of Confederate Veterans is not one of them," she said.
Meanwhile, the UNC School of Law faculty adopted a resolution Wednesday opposing the Silent Sam deal.
"While we continue to support the permanent removal of the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam from campus, we condemn the settlement that gives the statue and $2.5 million to the Sons of Confederate Veterans," the resolution states. "Such a settlement supports white supremacist activity and therefore violates the university’s mission as well as its obligations to the state."
Even Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren weighed in on the controversy.
"Shame on the UNC Board of Governors—and the Republican legislators who used a power grab to appoint this radical board," Warren tweeted. "Public funds should be used for students, not paying off Confederate groups."
Kevin Stone, state president of the SCV, denies the group is a white supremacist organization.
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