News: Quick Takes

UNC System lawyer suggests a do-over with Silent Sam 

'Silent Sam' was removed from his pedestal in August 2018 at the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. (CJ photo by Don Carrington)
'Silent Sam' was removed from his pedestal in August 2018 at the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. (CJ photo by Don Carrington)

The University of North Carolina System hopes to return to square one with the Silent Sam case, a letter from a lawyer representing the UNC System said. 

Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour tossed the $2.5 million settlement transferring ownership of the Confederate monument to a N.C. chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans on Feb. 12 after ruling the group didn’t have standing to sue over the monument.

Baddour then directed the UNC System and the BOG to submit affidavits by Feb. 17 to determine the next steps. Ripley Rand, a lawyer representing the UNC system, outlined those requests.

The UNC system wants to restore the status quo existing before the Nov. 27 consent judgment, Rand wrote. That includes dissolving the trust UNC Chapel Hill set up to hold the $2.5 million settlement and returning Silent Sam to the university within 45 days. 

The letter also asks the UNC System and the BOG to take steps “in recognition of the safety and security risks” and “provide for the ultimate disposition of the Monument in compliance with North Carolina law. …”

State law says the N.C. Historical Commission must OK the removal or relocation of any monuments, so it’s unclear if UNC plans to ask the commission to prevent Silent Sam from returning to the Chapel Hill campus. SCV representatives have said they want the statue displayed again at its original site on McCorkle Place.

Baddour signed off on the $2.5 million consent judgment the day before Thanksgiving 2019. The settlement came minutes after the lawsuit was filed. Documents suggest the settlement was pre-planned. The backlash prompted Baddour to reconsider the case and ultimately void the agreement. 

Much of the discussions around Silent Sam have occurred behind closed doors, prompting criticisms that the board hasn’t been transparent about the issue. Despite these criticisms, the board’s committee on university governance is scheduled to discuss the SCV lawsuit Feb. 20 in closed session. The board agenda cites attorney-client privilege as the reason for shielding the discussions from public view.

Baddour’s Feb. 12 order didn’t touch the $74,999 the university agreed to pay the SCV on Nov. 21 to limit the group’s activity on campus. Under the agreement the SCV won’t hold events on any campuses for five years.