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Monday numbers: A closer look at the UNC Board of Governors’ rejection of a new history center for Silent Sam


On Friday the UNC Board of Governors rejected a proposal to return the Silent Sam Confederate monument to the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill [2].

But the decision was not a rejection of the idea of the statue’s return to campus. Board of Governors Chairman Harry Smith said that such a return is still the only legal option. It was the fiscally conservative board’s rejection of the multi-million dollar price-tag of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees’ plan for a UNC history center to house the statue that apparently drove the decision.

The board assigned members from its conservative majority [3] to a task force to work with UNC-CH Chancellor Carol Folt and the trustees on a new, less expensive plan.

Among the members assigned to the task force is Bob Rucho, the combative former Republican legislator who held key leadership roles and was an architect of political redistricting plans struck down as unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. After leaving the state Senate in 2016, Rucho failed in a bid to return to the General Assembly earlier this year.

The task force will have until March 15 to offer a revised plan to the board. It will do so in the face of massive opposition to the statue’s return from students, alumni, faculty and staff.

This week, we take a look at some of the numbers related to the struggle over Silent Sam.

$5.3 million – The cost of building a proposed UNC History center [4] with state-of-the-art security to house Silent Sam and other historical artifacts from the school’s history;

$800,000 a year – The cost of operating the proposed history center;

147 – The number of in-state students whose complete four-year tuition could be paid by the $5.3 million proposed just for initial construction of the proposed history center;

$2 million a year – The cost of a proposed “mobile force platoon” [5] to travel to various UNC campuses as needed to deal with protests like those that eventually led to the toppling of the Silent Sam statue in August;

$500,000 – The cost of equipping the proposed “mobile force platoon”;

81 – The approximate number of faculty and teaching assistants who had, as of last week, pledged to withhold final grades [6] over the plan to return the statue to campus. UNC administration has said those participating in the movement may face termination or expulsion;

2,400 – The approximate number of final grades which could be impacted by the action;

At least 2,200 – The number of UNC community members, the vast majority alumni, who have pledged to withhold all philanthropic contributions to the university [7] until a solution is reached that will permanently remove Silent Sam from campus;

277 – The number of current and former UNC athletes who have signed onto a statement [8] opposing the statue’s return to campus and those protesting it;

430 – The number of UNC graduate students who have signed onto a statement [9] opposing the statue’s return to campus and supporting those protesting it.

141 – The number of faculty and workers at UNC rival, Duke University, who signed onto a statement [8] opposing the statue’s return to campus and supporting those protesting it;

18,000 – The number of undergraduate students represented by the UNC Undergraduate Student Senate, which released a statement condemning the plan to return the statue to campus [10];

2 – The number of UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees members (Allie Ray McMullen and Savannah Putnam) who voted “nay” on the proposal to return the statue to campus — Putnam is Student Body President at UNC-Chapel Hill;

1 – The number of UNC Board of Governors members (Thom Goolsby) who voted against creating a task force to create a new plan for Silent Sam last week — Goolsby said the statue should be returned to its original site at McCorkle Place immediately; and

1 – The number of UNC Board of Governors members (William Webb, a retired judge who supported the removal of Silent Sam from the campus before it was toppled) who voted against a resolution to create minimum sanctions for students, faculty and staff who “engage in unlawful activity that impacts public safety — including assault on law enforcement officers, disobeying lawful orders of law enforcement officers, inciting riots, resisting arrest, participation in a riotous act, and other acts of violence at any of the constituent institutions.”