The University of North Carolina has rejected a $5.3 million proposal to build a new home for “Silent Sam,” the statue of a Confederate soldier that was toppled from its pedestal in August by protesters at the flagship campus in Chapel Hill.
The university system’s board of governors on Friday cited concerns about public safety and the use of state funds for the project. The governors voted instead to form a committee to work with Chancellor Carol Folt and the Chapel Hill board of trustees to come up with a new plan.
The board of trustees last week recommended a new “history and education center” to house the statue and other exhibits from the university’s history. The center would have cost $5.3 million to build and $800,000 per year to run.
That plan prompted protests last week. Students, faculty and civil rights groups say Silent Sam, which stood on the Chapel Hill campus for more than a century, glorifies racism, slavery and white supremacy.
The governors directed the board of trustees to review other relocation options and submit a new recommendation by March 15.
Folt told reporters Friday afternoon that the university will explore all options for moving the statue off campus.
Moving the statue off campus is the safest and most preferred option, she said, but state law currently prohibits moving such memorials out of their jurisdictions.
Folt said officials will discuss using private funds to reinstall the monument elsewhere.
“Clearly it won’t be easy,” she said. “But we will continue to work as hard as we can to find the best solution so that our community and our state can thrive.”
The statue was erected by the North Carolina Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1913, a time when Confederate memorials proliferated throughout the South. It was dedicated to “the sons of the university who entered the war of 1861-65 in answer to the call of their country.”
In recent decades, it has been the scene of protests and the target of violence.
Opposition to Confederate memorials, symbols and flags was reignited in 2015 by the murders of nine black church members in Charleston, South Carolina, by a white supremacist who had posed on social media with a Confederate battle flag.
Communities from New Orleans to New York have grappled since then with what to do with their memorials to the Confederacy. The deadly 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia – home of that state’s flagship university campus – was ostensibly sparked by a proposal to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a public park.