Thirty-four faculty members of the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill School of Law have sent a letter to Chancellor Carol Folt urging the immediate removal of the Silent Sam Confederate monument.
The letter argues that a racist message given by Confederate war veteran Julian Carr at the statue's dedication cemented it as a symbol of white supremacy. The faculty argue that symbolism directly conflicts with the university's mission to teach a diverse community of students.
“While we do not favor shutting down the ability of individuals to voice disagreeable opinions, we believe that the statue sends a message of white supremacy that the university should refuse to endorse,” the faculty members said in the letter.
At the public dedication of Silent Sam in 1913, Carr lamented that he believed later generations did not respect what Confederate soldiers did for the Anglo-Saxon race. He then told about a time that he horse-whipped a black woman, who ran to the university for protection.
"This disparaging and marginalizing symbol has no place at the core of an inclusive learning environment," the faculty wrote.
The letter says they are particularly concerned about the statue’s symbolism given the UNC-system's Board of Governors’ recent ban against the UNC Center for Civil Rights representing low-income clients in civil rights cases.
Governor Roy Cooper has advised the university that it has permission to remove the statue, but Folt has argued that the schools' hands are tied due to state law. The law professors say if the university remains unsure of its legal ability to act, it should seek a declaration in court to affirm UNC’s right to remove the statue.
"This path would spare our students and faculty from the distraction, expense and pain of suing their home institution," the letter states.
Other groups, including the Faculty Council, the Black Congress, the UNC NAACP and Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger have urged the university to remove the statue. Last month, an attorney representing the UNC Black Law Students Association and other students sent a letter to Folt to say he is prepared to file a federal lawsuit if the statue is not removed. The law school faculty say they stand with those efforts.