CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — A day after the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill chancellor announced her resignation and approved the removal of the remains of “Silent Sam,” a Confederate monument, the school’s board asked her to leave weeks earlier than she’d planned.
Chancellor Carol Folt announced Monday that she had authorized the move of the Confederate monument’s base and that she would resign after graduation in May. On Tuesday, the UNC board of governors accepted Folt’s resignation and gave her until January 31 to leave her job, according to a brief statement released by the university system.
The board’s decision comes hours after the monument’s base and commemorative plaques — the subject of intense recent debate as part of a larger national conversation about the purpose of and need for Confederate monuments — were removed late Monday or early Tuesday from the UNC Chapel Hill’s upper quad and put into an undisclosed “secure location,” the university said.
The Silent Sam statue that had stood on the base was knocked over by protesters in August and did not return to its original spot.
“The presence of the remaining parts of the monument on campus poses a continuing threat both to the personal safety and well-being of our community and to our ability to provide a stable, productive educational environment,” Folt’s wrote in a letter announcing her decision on Monday. “No one learns at their best when they feel unsafe.”
Folt, who has been chancellor since 2013, also said the monument controversy has caused too much disruption.
“Carolina’s leadership needs to return its full attention to helping our university achieve its vision and to live its values,” her letter reads.
Monument’s next destination still to be decided
Silent Sam is the nickname of the statue of a Confederate soldier, which was built at the request of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. It was dedicated in 1913 to remember the “sons of the university who died for their beloved Southland 1861-1865,” UNC’s website says.
After the statue was toppled in August, months of discussions with faculty and students led Folt and the UNC board of trustees to propose a new $5.3 million building to safely house Silent Sam. But that plan was rejected in December by the UNC board of governors.
The board gave administrators until March 15 to come up with another recommendation.
UNC board of governors chairman Harry Smith had issued a statement Monday night saying the board had no knowledge of Folt’s intention to resign or remove Silent Sam’s base before it was made public.
“We are incredibly disappointed at this intentional action,” Smith said. “It lacks transparency and it undermines and insults the board’s goal to operate with class and dignity. We strive to ensure that the appropriate stakeholders are always involved and that we are always working in a healthy and professional manner.”
The board’s process and timeline for determining the best solution for the future of Silent Sam “remains unchanged,” Smith said.
“The safety and security of the campus community and general public who visit the institution remains paramount,” he said.
The board of trustees for the Chapel Hill campus also issued a statement Monday saying it supports Folt’s decision to step down.
“She brought remarkable energy and deep passion to countless initiatives that have made Carolina stronger and poised to inspire future generations of students, faculty, staff and alumni,” the statement reads.
Folt’s time at UNC
Folt arrived at UNC in 2013 in the midst of an academic scandal concerning student-athletes that had begun two years earlier.
She admitted in 2014 the university had failed some of its students “for years” by allowing them to take classes that did not match its own academic standards
Also during Folt’s tenure, UNC’s handling of sexual violence reports was scrutinized in 2016 after then-sophomore Delaney Robinson went public about her alleged rape on campus by a football player. She claimed prosecutors and the university were slow to bring justice despite the school’s revised misconduct policy that went into effect in 2014.
On the administrative side, Folt said in her letter the school raised “nearly $500 million in scholarships and aid” during her time there. The university also raised more than $2 billion in its “Campaign for Carolina” fundraiser last summer, Folt’s letter said.
“I’ve decided that this is the right time for me to pass the leadership of our outstanding university, with all its momentum, to the next chancellor, and look ahead for my own ‘new and next,'” Folt said.