Call to Strike in Light of Carol Folt’s Proposal to Reinstate Silent Sam at UNC

Below is the call to strike by anti-racist protestors in light of Carol Folt’s despicable proposal to UNC’s Board of Governors:

The UNC Board of Trustees (BOT) and Chancellor Carol Folt took several liberties today, both overt and covert. The overt: The BOT and Folt proposed that the University re-erect a Confederate Monument on a public university campus in 2018—155 years after enslaved people forced the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation and 153 years after the defeat of the Confederate States of America. They’ve proposed to spend $5.3 million dollars out of the University budget to house the Confederate Monument, Silent Sam, even as the administration is planning to hike student fees in order to make up a Facilities Maintenance deficit. Sadly, these outrageous proposals are in keeping with the University’s legacy of exploiting enslaved black people to build this campus and its history of racial segregation that lasted until 1955.

The covert: the BOT and Folt proposed that the University spend millions of dollars annually to increase the policing and surveillance of student and community protesters. This also fits with the University’s and Chapel Hill’s legacy of policing antiracist activists and its disregard for black bodies. This history is exemplified in the case of black Chapel Hill resident James Lewis Cates’ murder in 1970 by a white motorcycle gang in the Pit, and the University’s repression of black student protests that followed.

In no uncertain terms, Carol Folt and the BOT have proposed that UNC 1) commemorate the Confederacy, 2) further militarize policing of the UNC campus, and 3) actively restrict student, faculty, and community members’ freedom of speech.

Considering that UNC students should not be expected to continue their studies, take exams, and live on campus under this racially hostile and dangerous learning environment; that faculty across departments have signed petitions condoning student activism and condemning the University’s support of Silent Sam; and the threat that increased policing of student protests and the continued presence of a Confederate monument on campus poses to first amendment rights and physical safety, respectively, we call on all UNC TA’s and faculty to withhold grading final exams or assignments for the 2018 Fall semester until the following demands are met:

  1.     That the Board of Governors (BOG) organize a meeting and listening session with student and community anti-racist activists to discuss the fate of Silent Sam. As a result of police intimidation, undercover surveillance, and libel by University officials, the University has kept these groups from fully engaging in the ostensibly public discussions around the fate of the statue.  
  2.     That the BOT disclose the “necessary changes” to campus policing that, according to the appendix of the report they published today, they have already begun implementing, and that they withdraw the proposed security escalations, specifically:
  3.     The increased use of “intelligence gathering” and “protest management” by UNC Police
  4.     The formation of a 40-person “mobile force” of police to deploy in response to protests, costing $2 million per year
  5.     The allocation of $500,000 in equipment costs for this mobile police force
  6.     That the BOT withdraw its proposal to spend $5.3 million dollars to build a separate “indoor location” to house Silent Sam on UNC’s campus, and that the statue remain off campus.
  7.     That the University withdraw its plan to increase student fees of $65.39 for building maintenance, and to instead use the $5.3 million allocated to house Silent Sam and the yearly $2 million allocated for increased policing to 1) pay for the needed repairs 2) increase wages for graduate and campus workers 3) provide dental insurance for graduate workers, and 4) reduce parking costs for all workers.

 

We recognize that certain TA’s, faculty, and graders —such as international students—are at greater risk than others to strike, particularly as we witness ICE ramp up its tactics in North Carolina. This requires that citizens, white students and faculty, tenured faculty, and other privileged groups rise up to this task and carry the burden that marginalized communities have carried in fighting for justice. We stand in solidarity with these workers.

 

EMAIL: strikedownsam@protonmail.com

Background for Each Demand:

  1.     In November of 2017, activists discovered that the UNC PD infiltrated a peaceful sit-in of students and community members in protest of Silent Sam in August and September of that year. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents have also revealed that UNC police and Campus Safety and Risk Management monitored progressive student and faculty listservs, while an email from a Silent Sam supporter that threatened bringing an M16 to campus merely received a form letter. On the ground, police have used physically violent measures to disperse and arrest student and community protesters, using pepper spray, violent arrests, and bicycles. On the other hand, campus police have escorted white supremacist groups such as the ACTBAC, NC Shield Guard, and CSA II: The New Confederate States of America onto campus parking lots and McCorkle Place. Media outlets have reported that at least one of the Chapel Hill police officers stationed at a protest is affiliated with the III%ers, which provided armed security for Neo-Nazis at the deadly “Unite the Right Rally” in 2017. By the same token, in an effort to delegitimize the protests, University administration and public relations have lied since August 20th, 2018 that “outside agitators” are organizing anti-racist events, when, in fact, UNC staff and students are the primary organizers and attendants. Echoes of this rhetoric are present in their report published today.

“The Panel assessed that the greatest risk associated with protest and counter protest actions on the UNC-CH campus is the threat of violence by extremist elements imbedded inside protest and counter-protest groups….Objects such as smoke bombs, poles, frozen water bottles, paint balloons and metal objects were used by demonstrators as weapons.” (4)

Moreover, the BOT’s plan to house the monument inside a separate building is explicitly designed to inhibit further protests against the monument. According to the report’s appendix:

“In comparison to the Monument’s location in McCorkle Place, a free-standing, single program building offers options under the First Amendment that are important for keeping the public safe, keeping opposing sides apart and securing the Monument. Under First Amendment law and the Campus Free Speech Act, McCorkle Place and the sidewalk along Franklin Street adjacent to it would be considered ‘public forums’ as they are public spaces that have historically and traditionally been available for public assembly, protest and debate. Under the law, the University may impose narrowly tailored time, place and manner restrictions on McCorkle Place but would not be able to prohibit gatherings or protests around the Monument either completely or by particular groups.”

Both of these measures are tactics to silence opposition to the Confederate Monument and have kept the campus community from safely expressing their dissent.

  1.     Again, UNC Police are already using militant tactics against protestors, including undercover infiltration, online surveillance, pepper spray, and physical aggression. These tactics would be dramatically expanded if the Safety Panel’s proposals went through. The report’s appendix reads:

“The Safety Panel recommend that the UNC Police acquire greater capabilities in the area of crowd control, protest management and intelligence gathering. They also recommended enhanced training for UNC Police, improvements in operational plans, and greater clarity with respect to rules of engagement. We have already begun the process of making necessary changes to enhance the capability of the UNC Police in these important respects.” (7)

“The Panel highly recommends that the UNC Board of Governors implement a systemwide mobile force that can be deployed to any campus as needed….With respect to enhanced capabilities to address large protests that involve unlawful behavior, the Safety Panel recommend that a mobile force be developed at the UNC System level (to be shared by all System institutions) to provide enhanced capability to address issues that arise with large crowds and protests. The development of such a force will require funding as well as time to hire, train and provision a System-wide resource of this nature. The Safety Panel recommends the establishment of a 40- person system wide mobile force that was estimated to cost $2,000,000 annually and require the expenditure of $500,000 for equipment costs. We believe that this recommendation warrants serious consideration and review by the Board of Governors.” (8)

Furthermore, these heightened police tactics are directly in response to the BOT’s belief that the Orange County District Court, in which antiracist activists like Maya Little were tried, did not sufficiently punish defendants. According to the statement:

“The security consultants also pointed out that we must take into consideration the fact that the recent decisions of some Orange County judges add to the security risk.” (8)

In other words, the BOT is proposing to take extralegal measures, using the UNC police force to threaten student activists and discourage further action regarding Silent Sam.

  1.     The KKK-affiliated United Daughters of the Confederacy, together with the University, sponsored the erection of Silent Sam in 1913 as part of a larger wave of Confederate monument making across the South. They participated in a broader Jim Crow era trend led by white Southern women to develop the racist ‘Lost Cause’ narrative of the Civil War, erasing the central role that slavery played in the conflict. A number of UNC historians have confirmed and elaborated on both the white supremacist intentions of the monument and slavery’s role in the Civil War, and our very own library archives house the documents that demonstrate this history. The most well-known example, of course, is Julian Carr’s speech at Silent Sam’s dedication ceremony, in which he bragged about how he “horse-whipped a Negro wench until her skirt hung in shreds.” The United Daughters of the Confederacy did not intend to honor those who lost their lives to a slaveholder-created war, but to re-establish the racial caste system that the abolition of slavery and the 14th and 15th amendments deeply threatened. Re-erecting this monument tacitly proclaims the University’s support for white supremacist ideals.
  2.     On Thursday, November 15, 2018, the University Board of Trustees approved an increase in student fees of $65.39. The Board of Governors will vote on this proposal on December 14. Annually, this is meant to yield $1.8 million dollars, or $200,000 less than the cost of the proposed mobile police force. Almost all graduate students —who do much if not most of the instructional and research labor on campus —are forced to pay these fees, decreasing their already poverty-level stipends by over ten percent. The student fee increases, according to Folt, are being used to finance building repairs that workers have been trying to address for years. This means that not only are graduate workers being asked to finance repairs to the buildings that they work in, but they are doing so in the midst of a call for a new $5.3 million dollar building —in addition to a yearly upkeep cost of another $800,000 —to house a Confederate Monument on their campus. A number of UNC staff — instructional, maintenance, housekeeping, dining services, etc — make well below $15 per hour, or the minimum wage for state government employees per the budget passed by the NC general assembly in June 2018. Meanwhile, Carol Folt makes over half a million dollars a year, Larry Fedora is fired with a $12,000,000 severance pay, and the campus’ former Confederate Monument is placed back on campus for no less than $5.3 million dollars.

The University works because we do. If we don’t get it, shut it down.

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