Mayor Pam Hemminger and the Chapel Hill Town Council sent a letter on Monday, Feb.17, to UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz reaffirming the Town of Chapel Hill’s request for relocation of the Silent Sam monument.
“Based on the Feb. 12 court decision regarding the Silent Sam monument, we knew that UNC would need to come up with a new plan for the monument and felt it was important to re-affirm our earlier requests as the conversation begins,” Mayor Pam Hemminger said.
The letter requests that the monument be located outside of Chapel Hill to a more contextually appropriate place that is safer for public viewing.
The complete body of the letter can be found below.
February 17, 2020
Dear Chancellor Guskiewicz,
As the proud home of the country's oldest and finest public university, the Town of Chapel Hill greatly values the long-established relationships with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) that allow us to work together, as neighbors and community partners, to address important issues and be the outstanding college town that we all want.
Critical to the success of our collaboration has always been our shared commitment to being a safe, welcoming and inclusive place for everyone who lives, works, learns, plays and visits in Chapel Hill.
In light of court actions on February 12, 2020 relating to the Silent Sam Confederate monument, we anticipate that a new decision about the monument’s future placement will need to be made.
With that in mind, we are writing to reaffirm Chapel Hill's earlier request for the permanent relocation of the Silent Sam Confederate monument away from Chapel Hill and in a more contextually appropriate place that is safer for public viewing.
We make this request for the following reasons:
Prominent placement of the Silent Sam monument on the UNC campus or in Chapel Hill is offensive to the Chapel Hill community, including African-American students, faculty members, university employees, local residents, and business persons who call Chapel Hill home, as well as to returning alumni and the countless fans and tourists who visit our Town every year. To them and to us, Silent Sam and its roots in pro-slavery, pro-segregation ideology represent the antithesis of the high value that UNC and the Town of Chapel Hill place on being a welcoming and inclusive place for all.
Strong emotions surrounding Silent Sam have existed for many years, including escalating tensions and frequent clashes that have occurred in downtown Chapel Hill in recent years. These emotions demonstrate the very clear and present danger to public safety that will continue to intensify if the statue is returned to campus or located within the Town.
Downtown businesses and the Town's reputation as one of the best small towns in the nation have suffered as a result of the tensions and outbreaks of violence. These impacts were outlined in a letter from the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce and Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership (August 30, 2018). Continued unrest will be increasingly detrimental to the vitality and vibrancy of downtown Chapel Hill that we have worked so hard together to achieve.
The financial and other resource costs to the University and the Town associated with the statue and these on-going events place an unsustainable strain on our mutual aid agreement for public safety that is vitally important to keep students and the entire community safe during downtown student celebrations and other events throughout the school year.
We appreciate your leadership in working with the UNC Board of Governors to continue UNC’s exploration of alternatives for the Silent Sam monument and believe our request aligns with the objectives spelled out in the Board of Governor’s resolution on this matter.
Thank you for your consideration of our request.
Pam Hemminger, Mayor
Michael Parker, Mayor Pro Tem
Jess Anderson, Council Member
Allen Buansi, Council Member
Hongbin Gu, Council Member
Tai Huynh, Council Member
Amy Ryan, Council Member
Rachel Schaevitz, Council Member
Karen Stegman, Council Member
Chair Randall C. Ramsey, UNC System Board of Governors
Interim President Dr. William J. Roper, UNC System
Chair Richard Stevens, UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees
Maurice Jones, Town Manager, Town of Chapel Hill
Ralph Karpinos, Attorney, Town of Chapel Hill
Joel Curran, Vice Chancellor of Communications, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill