The remains of the Confederate statue known as “Silent Sam” were removed from the University of North Carolina campus early Tuesday, hours after the school chancellor announced her resignation and said she had ordered the monument taken away.
Chancellor Carol L. Folt on Monday said she would step down at the end of the academic year and announced she had ordered the removal of the statue’s base and commemorative plaques because of safety concerns. The state university system’s Board of Governors responded by telling Folt to leave by the end of January.
The statue, erected on the Chapel Hill campus in 1913, was torn off its base in August by students protesting its symbolism as a shrine for white supremacy. Protests outside the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in 2017 over Confederate monuments led to a woman’s death in clashes between white supremacists and demonstrators.
Video taken at UNC around 1 a.m. Tuesday showed people singing and cheering as construction workers carefully removed the remains of Silent Sam.
“As chancellor, the safety of the UNC-Chapel Hill community is my clear, unequivocal and non-negotiable responsibility,” Folt wrote in a letter to students. “The presence of the remaining parts of the monument on campus poses a continuing threat both to the personal safety and well-being of our community and to our ability to provide a stable, productive educational environment. No one learns at their best when they feel unsafe.”
The base and plaques will be placed in storage until a permanent place for them is decided, Folt added.
“While I recognize that some may not agree with my decision to remove the base and tablets now, I am confident this is the right one for our community – one that will promote public safety, enable us to begin the healing process and renew our focus on our great mission,” Folt said.
UNC’s Board of Governors, which oversees the state’s public universities, accepted Folt’s resignation and said she should leave by the end of the month.
Chairman Harry Smith said speeding up the ouster isn’t meant as a punishment ― though he said the board was unaware of Folt’s plans to remove the statue and was unhappy with what she had done.
“We are incredibly disappointed at this intentional action. It lacks transparency and it undermines and insults the Board’s goal to operate with class and dignity,” Smith said in a statement on Monday.
The Chapel Hill school’s Board of Trustees, in contrast, expressed support for Folt’s decision to remove what remained of the monument, and said she was “acting properly to preserve campus security.”
Gov. Roy Cooper (D) also expressed support for Folt’s actions, stating on Twitter: “North Carolina is welcoming to all, and our public university should reflect that.”