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UNC student activists unhappy with chancellor after Silent Sam discussion

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UNC student organizers were unhappy with the university chancellor over Silent Sam discussions.

Student organizers wanted their face-to-face meeting with UNC Chancellor Carol Folt on the fate of the controversial Silent Sam Confederate monument to be open and honest.

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So they asked our cameras to leave a few minutes after it began. When it wrapped up 90 minutes later, they emerged from the meeting space roundly frustrated.

UNC doctoral student Maya Little left the meeting still hurting from her confrontation with a UNC football fan before Saturday's game against rival Duke. Little was handing out informational fliers about the Silent Sam controversy near the statue.

"As I asked (the fan), 'would you like more information about Silent Sam,' he brought his face closer to mine and made very racist monkey noises at me," Little said. Moments later, the fan can be heard on cell-phone video threatening to hurt and kill Little's friend, who she says came to her defense.

"I don't think this incident would've happened if Silent Sam wasn't here," Little said.

Emotional stories like Little's were the heart of the meeting with Folt and her leadership team. The students expressed their feeling that the Confederate monument off Franklin Street, at the entrance of the university, is symbolic of a slave-holding South and provokes racial animus on campus.

"I'm very frustrated. I was on the verge of tears," said Michelle Brown after the meeting ended. She is one of the leading student activists pushing for Silent Sam's removal. Last week Brown and others helped launch a student boycott of UNC food and retail stores on campus.

The boycott came days after ABC11 learned that UNC System leaders declined Gov. Roy Cooper's offer to add Silent Sam to a petition to the state Historic Commission to have the statue removed.

"Another person asked why didn't you file with the Historic Commission, and the chancellor said that wasn't in her ability despite the commission saying it was," Brown said, recalling what was said to Folt at the meeting. "(Folt) said she could not ... I don't (believe her)."

Folt did not stop to answer ABC11's questions on why the UNC system did not take the governor up on his offer. Folt's top lieutenants weighed in instead.

"I wasn't involved in that decision, so I don't know. I was not part of that piece of it. So I can't answer on behalf of the institution," said Associate Vice-Chancellor Rumay Alexander, who also serves as the university's chief diversity officer.

"That conversation isn't part of what we discussed tonight," said Vice-Chancellor Felicia Washington. "I think that the students, really if you think about some of the pain they were sharing, I'm not sure the students really care why. They just want it moved."

Twelve UNC students are threatening a federal lawsuit over civil rights violation if the monument is not taken down.

The Historic Commission is set to meet in April for a final decision on the fate of Confederate monuments on the State Capitol grounds. UNC activists say they will now focus efforts on petitioning commission members on their own to get Silent Sam on the agenda before April.

Related Topics:
educationconfederacyconfederate monumentuncprotestcollege studentsChapel HillOrange County
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