We, the undersigned, speaking as individual graduate students and alumni of the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, declare our unwavering support for Maya Little and her nonviolent act of civil disobedience. As public health graduate students, we are acutely aware of the negative effects of racism on the health and well-being of people of color. Silent Sam is a form of institutional racism, and poses undue mental and emotional harm to many who encounter it. We condemn Chancellor Folt and her administration’s willful inaction in the face of ongoing, violent, and racist threats against Maya.
In failing to protect students, workers, and faculty of color, the University under the direction of Chancellor Folt has fallen short in one of its most basic tasks. When institutions cannot be counted on to defend those lives who give it life, individual students and workers take on the responsibility of challenging the institution’s complicity in structures of oppression. Whether it sides with justice or power, the University’s response will not be forgotten. It is our view that universities exist to enable the pursuit of new ideas, such that today’s assumptions do not become tomorrow’s dogmas.
We join our friends and colleagues in the Department of History (and other departments) by making the following demands:
- We demand that Chancellor Folt and her administration remove Silent Sam from its current location, given that their legal right to do so is unambiguous.
- We demand that the administration not take punitive action, legal or otherwise, against Maya for her act of nonviolent civil disobedience.
- We demand that UNC Board of Trustees strike down the 16 year moratorium on renaming campus buildings.
- We demand fair compensation for the campus workers who cleaned Silent Sam of blood and ink without protective gear, when it is Folt who should have taken responsibility for attempting to whitewash UNC’s history.
- We demand that the administration act to address institutional racism on campus.
In our collective hope for a “Carolina for All,” we ask Chancellor Folt and her administration to take seriously the state motto of North Carolina: to be, rather than to seem. Until such a time as UNC lives the ideals it ascribes to itself, we will join our fellow graduate students and alumni across departments in recognizing and condemning the personal and institutional actors that perpetuate white supremacy on our campus.
Juliana de Groot
Mike Dolan Fliss
Sara La Lone
Allison M Lacko
Melissa L Jensen
Rodrigo Costa Liao
Amber M Hall
Caitlin R Williams
Kelsey Ann White
Seri Link Anderson