by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Jay Schalin of the Martin Center devotes his latest column to the debate over Silent Sam’s future at UNC-Chapel Hill.
The decision is an important one, with major political implications for the state of North Carolina and for Carol Folt. No matter where she puts Silent Sam, some constituency will be angry. The real question is whom she chooses to please with her decision—and whose beliefs she dismisses. It is even possible she will not satisfy anybody.
Silent Sam’s presence on the UNC campus has been a hot-button issue for a long time. A year ago, a mob of roughly 800 people was held off from pulling him down. The university spent roughly $390,000 in security costs to protect him in the last year. The day before the protest, Folt and Margaret Spellings, the president of the UNC system, sent a letter to North Carolina governor Roy Cooper, asking his advice about the possibility of moving the statue. This angered a majority of the UNC system board members, who responded with a letter of their own, decrying the “weakness” and “handwringing” exhibited by Folt and Spellings concerning how to deal with potentially violent protesters. …
… Clearly, Folt is caught between a rock and a hard place. Whichever decision she makes, some important faction will be angry. Much of the state is already upset that violent protesters are let go entirely or given mere wrist-slaps—this amounts to sanctioning mob rule. Of course, the verdicts of the Orange County court, which handles the criminal charges against protesters, are out of her hands. But if Silent Sam is sent packing or banished to some dusty, out-of-the-way alcove, it will appear to many that she is handing the keys to the campus to those who reject the rule of law.
On the other hand, if she returns Sam to his former home on McCorkle Place or some other equally prominent spot, the mob will likely try to pull him down again. So what are she and the Trustees supposed to do?