UNC trustees take public comments on Confederate statues

AP News
Posted: Nov 15, 2017 10:23 AM
UNC trustees take public comments on Confederate statues

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Trustees for North Carolina's flagship public university heard Wednesday from students who oppose a campus Confederate monument.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's was scheduled to hear from more than 30 speakers at a comment session during its bimonthly meeting. When the meeting took a short break at the halfway point, most speakers had voiced opposition to the statue but at least two spoke in support of it.

The statue of an anonymous rebel known as "Silent Sam" has been the site of demonstrations during a nationwide debate on Confederate monuments.

Board Chair Haywood Cochrane opened the session by saying the board was committed to campus safety and telling the full story of university history.

It's not clear what action the board could take; Chancellor Carol Folt has previously said state law prevents the school from removing the statue.

The first speaker, graduate student and protest organizer Maya Little, said the statue symbolizes "the violent oppression of minorities." She said it continues to pose a safety hazard and that student protesters have been verbally threatened by some who support the Confederate monument.

Two speakers offered support of Silent Sam. One of them, who identified himself as UNC alumnus James Ward, acknowledged that there was "rampant racism" around the world when the statue was dedicated in 1913 but said the statue represents an important memorial.

"Most of us look at the statue today and see a memorial to our relatives, our blood kin," he said, adding: "The statue should remain because it is a memorial to these sons of the university."