UNC Board of Governors member says chancellor broke law by authorizing removal of remnants of Silent Sam

Published: Jan. 17, 2019 at 6:05 AM EST
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - One day after crews removed the remnants of a Confederate statue as authorized by the UNC chancellor, a UNC Board of Governors member is calling the move illegal and reiterating his position that the statue be reinstated.

“The only people who can move statues are the General Assembly. We can’t do it," said Thom Goolsby, an attorney based in Wilmington. “Whether you like the statue or hate the statue, my suggestion is, let’s contextualize the statue, and let’s talk about it and let’s use it as a talking point to talk about history.”

The Confederate statue known as Silent Sam was pulled off its pedestal by protesters in August.

On Monday, Chancellor Carol Folt announced her resignation and decision to remove Silent Sam’s base and commemorative plaques. Overnight, crews performed that removal.

In a closed meeting on Tuesday, the UNC Board of Governors accepted Folt’s decision to resign, but gave her until Jan. 31 to leave as opposed to the end of the semester when she had originally planned, WRAL reported.

Gooslby said he did not attend the meeting that dealt with Folt’s resignation, but agrees new leadership is needed.

“There have been a lot of problems at UNC Chapel Hill, and I do think it’s time for a change in leadership, and I’m happy to see that occurring,” said Goolsby.

When he learned the statue’s base and plaque had been authorized for removal, Goolsby said it was an unwelcome surprise.

“I thought it was rather outrageous," Goolsby said. "We had already tasked the Board of Trustees at UNC to work with a committee selected by our chairman to figure out how to move forward with the statue and re-installation.”

The statue is being repaired, Goolsby said. Once that work is completed, Goolsby suggests Silent Sam be replaced inside of a building with other statues.

“We have history in our state. I have no problem contextualizing that history," said Goolsby. "But I have a real problem tearing that history down, and my thought is, build a structure around Silent Sam to help contextualize what occurred and maybe put up additional statues that deal with our history. Let’s talk about it because the people who forget the past are bound to repeat it.”

The next UNC Board of Governors meeting is scheduled for Jan. 23.

“We will definitely be discussing these issues," Goolsby said. "Just because an outgoing chancellor took, I think, an illegal action to remove a piece of property without authority off the grounds of the university doesn’t mean that’s right and doesn’t mean that’s what’s going to happen.”

Gooslby said he is opposed to the removal of any type of statue without following the protocol under state law.

“People have asked me, ‘What’s the deal? Why are you so intent on seeing this statue reinstalled?’" Goolsby said. "And I’m like, if it were a statue of Martin Luther King, if it were a statue of whoever, fact of the matter is, North Carolina state law says that if a statue comes down, it has to be put back up within 90 days, and the only people who can move a statue...are the General Assembly.”

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