Repercussions over UNC's "Silent Sam" statue deal continue

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Critics on Friday pushed back against a deal to protect a Civil War statue that once stood on the University of North Carolina's flagship campus and give $2.5 million to a neo-Confederate organization, as a civil rights group objected to it in court and a foundation withdrew a grant.

The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a motion Friday to intervene and set aside the $2.5 million consent judgment between the UNC Board of Governors and the North Carolina division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The agreement involves a statue of a Confederate soldier known as “Silent Sam” that stood on the Chapel Hill campus for more than 100 years until protesters toppled it in August 2018.

“It disgusts me that the university I attend would shirk its basic academic and moral responsibility to work toward an honest reckoning with the past, and instead would pay reparations to white supremacists,” undergraduate William Holland wrote in an affidavit filed with the motion.

Holland is among six Chapel Hill students and one faculty member named as as plaintiffs in the motion to intervene.

In that motion, attorneys for the Lawyers' Committee provide a timeline for the consent order, which they say was settled seven minutes after the SCV filed its complaint. UNC interim President William Roper had signed it the day before the complaint was filed, while the chairman of the Board of Governors, Randy Ramsey, had signed it five days before the filing.

One intervenor, UNC sophomore De'Ivyion Drew, said her grandfather was denied access to a college education because of his race.

“The legacy of UNC's role in the institution of slavery, embodied by the Monument at the entrance to its flagship campus since 1913 and pervasive through its history of racial exclusion, will now be perpetuated through a $2.5 million trust which the SCV will use to spread the lies which caused members of my own family not only to be terrorized but also excluded from economic opportunity, housing, education, land ownership and political access," she wrote in her affidavit.

UNC spokesman Josh Ellis declined to comment.

Meanwhile, a New York-based not-for-profit foundation has withdrawn a $1.5 million grant intended for the Chapel Hill campus.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation said in a statement that it withdrew the grant when it learned of the deal between the board and the SCV.

The Mellon Foundation's Friday statement said the foundation had been working with the school to develop a grant proposal supporting "a campus-wide educational reckoning focusing on historical truth-telling and confronting the University's entanglements with slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and the memorialization of the Confederacy.

“Allocating university funding toward protecting a statue that glorifies the Confederacy, slavery, and white supremacy — whether from public or private sources — runs antithetical to who we are and what we believe as a foundation,” the statement said.

UNC-Chapel Hill spokeswoman Kate Luck didn't respond to an email from the AP seeking reaction on Friday. Prior to the foundation's decision, WRAL reported that Luck said Thursday that the university was "in conversations" with the Mellon Foundation over its concerns about the settlement, but that the university was “not aware of any awarded grants that have been rescinded regarding this issue.” Luck maintained that position in talking to the television station on Friday.

Last month, UNC announced that Silent Sam would be given to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which would be banned from placing it in any of the 14 counties where UNC campuses are located. The statue was dedicated in 1913 to honor UNC alumni who fought for the Confederacy.

The agreement calls for university officials to put the $2.5 million in a private fund that would be used for expenses related to preserving the monument or potentially building a facility to house it. Officials have said no state money will be used for the fund.

The deal sparked multiple protests. Faculty members on the Chapel Hill campus condemned the agreement and protesters marched against it. The state attorney general’s office has distanced itself from the settlement as well.

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Foreman reported from Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Follow Martha Waggoner on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc.