The granite pedestal on which Silent Sam, the white supremacy symbol at the entrance to UNC-Chapel Hill, used to stand got hauled away in the wee hours this morning, by order of Chancellor Carol Folt, who incidentally also announced she's leaving her post as chancellor at the end of this semester just ahead (we imagine) of an angry mob of UNC Board of Governors members with pitchforks and torches who apparently did not know that Chancellor Folt was going to resign and order that hunk of granite removed on the same Monday in January. The BOG is largely an adamantine bunch of Republicans, and many wanted that warped statue back up on that pedestal.
UNC BOG Chair Harry Smith was particularly outraged by Chancellor Folt's actions, perhaps because he was in the middle of conducting a phone-in meeting of the board when news of Folt's resignation reached him. The board was discussing "personnel issues," and it's no secret that some of the board were gunning for Folt. Perhaps her unexpected resignation was one of those "you can't fire me because I quit" moments. We don't know. But Smith was unamused: "We are incredibly disappointed at this intentional action," Smith said in a statement. "It lacks transparency and it undermines and insults the board’s goal to operate with class and dignity."
With class and dignity. Is that code?
Smith made his fortune selling and installing air filters, but he's also the owner of apartment buildings that rent exclusively to students, and he's been accused of trying to steer member campuses in the UNC system to build public-private student housing via a company he had "a relationship" with. Uh-huh.
Smith, described as part of "an aggressive conservative faction" of BOG members, took over as chair last July. That faction ran off UNC President Tom Ross. Then they ran off his replacement, Margaret Spellings. Now Carol Folt is leaving too. Harry Smith and his faction get to replace those people with their people, and how they ultimately decide to handle symbols of white supremacy hang in the balance, sort of like that granite pedestal. If they go all hardline, we trust it will be with class and dignity.
The UNC BOG has decided that Chancellor Folt will not be allowed to continue until the end of semester. She needs to clean out her office by January 31st, they said.