UNC-Chapel Hill’s Campus Safety Commission has issued a strong condemnation of the controversial settlement that gives the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam to the Sons of Confederate Veterans — along with $2.5 million.
The statement, issued Friday afternoon, acknowledges that the statue was a constant danger while on campus and expresses relief it will not return to campus. But it also criticizes the deal with the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the way in which the UNC Board of Governors negotiated it.
From the statement:
We express our condemnation of the outcome of the settlement as well as the process that led to it. Specifically, we note:
The UNC System chose to settle a lawsuit that it no doubt would have won handily. The SCV’s ability to make a claim about the monument derived entirely from its purported ownership of the Monument. But the SCV did not own the monument. It argues that it came into ownership of the monument in January of 2018 when UNC breached some supposed “express condition” of the 1913 gift that the Monument remain on campus “forever.” That theory is invalid as a matter of North Carolina law, and transparently so.
Because the SCV’s lawsuit was so obviously groundless, there was no apparent reason to pay the SCV $2.5 million to settle it. Were the board of directors of a corporation to settle a case it plainly could have won, and authorize the payment of $2.5 million of the corporation’s money to do so, the members of the board of directors would face charges that they were breaching their fiduciary duty to the corporation. They would have to explain the real basis of their decision very persuasively if they wanted to avoid this.
Because the process that led to the disposition of the Monument was entirely secret, and because it was strategically announced the afternoon before Thanksgiving so as to hinder public discussion and scrutiny, the public knows no more about the real reasons for this settlement and payment than the groundless ones in the court documents.
We are therefore hard pressed to see the decision to hand $2.5 million to the SCV as anything but an endorsement by the UNC System of the SCV’s disturbing, historically inaccurate, white-supremacist agenda. This action is an affront to the UNC community and the larger public that highlights a betrayal of, and threat to, our community’s black and brown members. And it violates every principle for which this institution of higher learning stands.
The University, for its part, issued a “Frequently Asked Questions” document about the settlement Friday afternoon.
In several instances the document stresses that the UNC Board of Governors was responsible for the settlement and that campus-level leadership (and particularly Interim UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and the Board of Trustees) was not involved.
From the FAQ:
“Who approved the settlement?
Members of the Board of Governors negotiated and approved the settlement, which the Board approved through the Governance Committee following review by the North Carolina Attorney General’s office. An Orange County Superior Court Judge signed and entered the consent judgment. The settlement was not presented to the Interim Chancellor or to the Board of Trustees for approval.”
The FAQ also asserts that a trust agreement exists for the $2.5 million.
What are the details of the $2.5 million trust established as a part of the settlement?
There is a trust agreement between the UNC System, the Board of Governors and the SCV, and an independent trustee has the sole responsibility for disbursing funds according to the terms of that trust agreement. The purpose of the trust is the maintenance, display and preservation of the monument. The funds in the trust do not belong to and are not controlled by the SCV.
No such trust agreement has been made publicly available either by the UNC system or in court documents. Policy Watch and other media outlets have requested the trust agreement. The system has yet to fulfill that request — or requests for other details on the settlement and communications about it.
Both the FAQ and the Campus Safety Commission statement come one day after a mass protest of the settlement on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus and questions about the validity of the agreement — from community members, law experts and members of the board of governors itself.
On Friday afternoon the Faculty Executive Committee also met, strongly questioning the settlement. Students held a demonstration against the settlement during the meeting.
After aggressively questioning Guskiewicz about the deal, the faculty council also passed a resolution condemning it.
“While we continue to support the permanent removal of the confederate monument known as Silent Sam from campus, we condemn the settlement that gives the statue and $2.5 million to the Sons of Confederate Veterans,” their resolution read. “Such a settlement supports white supremacist activity and therefore violates the university’s mission as well as its obligations to the state.”
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