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UNC Chancellor Announces Removal Of Remaining Silent Sam Monument, Then Resigns


For more than a century, a Confederate monument known as Silent Sam stood at the entrance to the campus of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Last year, protesters tore it down. But its pedestal and placards remained in place until today. Debate continues over what to do with the toppled statue - and complicating matters, the resignation announcement of the university's chancellor yesterday. Lisa Philip has been covering all of this for member station WUNC in Chapel Hill.

Hi, Lisa.


KELLY: So I said the pedestal and all the signs were still there until today. What happened?

PHILIP: Yeah. So it's been a roller coaster these past 24 hours. Yesterday, in the same email that the chancellor announced her resignation, she also authorized the removal of the pedestal on the plaques for the Confederate monument. And that happened at - it had wrapped up by about 3 a.m. this morning. The move apparently took state university officials by surprise. They convened an emergency meeting this afternoon, and they voted to move up the timeline for the chancellor's resignation. In her announcement yesterday, she said she was planning on sticking around past graduation this spring. But they decided that they would move that up to the end of this month.

KELLY: So just to be clear, the chancellor's resignation is connected to the Silent Sam controversy or not?

PHILIP: She would say otherwise. She told reporters on a conference call this morning that the two were not related. They just happened to take place at the same time - that, like, matters brought these two things together but they were not connected.

KELLY: I'm guessing her critics might say otherwise. But let me ask about Silent Sam. The statue, is it any clearer where that's going to end up, where it will be kept?

PHILIP: Not really. So just to give some history on the statue - it was put up in the early 1900s, and supporters say it's to commemorate those students who died fighting for the Confederacy. But the statue was dedicated with a pretty problematic speech that praised white supremacy. So after events in Charlottesville, students and faculty were crying louder and louder for its removal from campus. And last August, protesters took matters into their own hands and tore it down. And then that led to campus officials coming up with a plan to build a $5 million university history center on campus to put the statue inside of that. And of course, no one was happy with that plan. Students and faculty were very upset by it. And...

KELLY: Arguing that money could be spent elsewhere, I imagine. Yeah.

PHILIP: Yeah, exactly. And then there were people who were upset by the fact that the statue wasn't going back where it had once stood.

KELLY: That's Lisa Philip, a reporter with member station WUNC in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Thank you, Lisa.

PHILIP: Thank you so much.

KELLY: And we should note - the University of North Carolina holds the broadcast license for WUNC, but the station's newsroom operates independently. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Before joining WUNC in October as the station's new education reporter, Lisa Philip covered schools in Howard County, Maryland for the Baltimore Sun newspapers. She traveled from school playgrounds to the state legislature, writing about everything from a Girl Scout friendship bench project to a state investigation into local school officials' alleged hiding of public records.