Students plan further activism regarding Silent Sam case

Students plan further activism regarding Silent Sam case

Read in The Daily Tar Heel 2/24/20

Since Orange County Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour reversed the UNC Board of Governors’ $2.5 million settlement with the North Carolina Sons of Confederate Veterans Inc., plaintiffs in the case have been planning their next steps. 

De’Ivyion Drew, a UNC sophomore and the only publicly-named student plaintiff, said she was surprised by Baddour’s ruling. 

“I wasn’t expecting him to have the moral courage to reverse his own decision,” she said. 

Baddour’s decision to vacate the settlement, which occurred on Feb. 12, ruled that the SCV did not have standing to sue in the case. Baddour determined on Feb. 20 that the group had 45 days to return Silent Sam and the remaining balance of the trust to the UNC System. 

This ruling, Drew said, would likely not have been possible without the support of alumni and the UNC Black Pioneers who filed an amicus brief in support of the settlement reversal. 

Drew said the lawyers involved in the case, Boyd Sturges for the SCV and Ripley Rand for the UNC System, should give back the public money they were paid in legal fees.

Strurges’ office and the UNC System did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication. 

“You have to be willing to stand up for the right side of history,” she said. 

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is the firm representing Drew and the other student and faculty plaintiffs. They have sent request letters to the legal parties in an effort to recover the money that has already been spent. 

The $74,999, one dollar below the sum that would have required approval from the North Carolina Attorney General, the University System paid the SCV in a separate deal has not been recovered. 

“Not only was it premeditated, it was intentional,” Drew said, referring to the complex financial details of the settlement. 

Chris Suggs, president of the Black Student Movement, said in a statement that his organization plans to continue working with the community to hold University administrators accountable. 

“There was no justification for funds intended to support the academic experience of students to be handed over to a racist group like the Sons of Confederate Veterans for them to spread harm and hatred across our state,” he said. 

Suggs said he is happy the BOG deal was overturned and calls on the University to devise a future plan that does not harm students. 

Drew said moving forward in opposition of the UNC System’s dealings with the SCV requires concrete action.  

“It’s always the right time to not tolerate injustice, but never the right time to change our conditions,” she said. 

The SCV is the antithesis of the University, Drew said, and should not benefit in any way from the settlement or reversal. She also said Silent Sam should be completely destroyed.

“Having statues of our enemies doesn’t make sense logically,” she said. “There is no reason to preserve a false representation of history.”

First-year Clay Morris, a political science and journalism major, said the UNC System put itself in a position to let the SCV write the narrative around the deal — one that happened behind closed doors. 

“I think they really need to be careful with these next few steps,” he said. 

Morris said a program of investment in African Americans on campus — and the student body — would be an ideal solution. 

Going forward, a group of students, including Drew, plans to host a court watch on Feb. 28 in support of graduate students who were arrested in November protesting another Confederate statue in Pittsboro. Drew said she also plans to take part in a counter demonstration toward Confederate groups who plan to protest during spring break on campus. 

Drew said, moving forward, her primary focus is to oppose the $74,999 that has not be recovered by the UNC System.

“My position is not because I hate the University, but because I love the University,” she said. “That love is transformative.”