Politics & Government

Silent Sam’s fate is put on hold again. Committee has more time to decide about monument.

UNC will have until at least late May to decide what should be done with the damaged Silent Sam statue, under an extension granted by the university system’s Board of Governors.

The Daily Tar Heel was the first to report the extension, which it said was announced at a meeting Monday of the UNC-Chapel Hill Faculty Executive Committee.

UNC spokesman Josh Ellis confirmed the deadline extension in a phone conversation Tuesday. Ellis said Board of Governors Chairman Harry Smith sent an email to members of a committee working on the statue plan to tell them of the extension.

Reached by phone, Smith said the group had asked for more time.

“The team is working really, really hard,” Smith said. “We don’t want to do too much or too little. The goal is to have enough time to explore all the options.”

The question of what to do with Silent Sam, the Confederate monument that stood in McCorkle Place on the UNC campus from 1913 until it was yanked to the ground by protesters last August, is a complicated one with possible legal, financial and emotional ramifications well beyond campus.

The statue had been a source of controversy for decades between people who said its presence at a public university was implicit support for white supremacist ideals, and those who said it was a historic tribute to the sacrifices of students who fought in the Civil War.

Pro- and anti-monument activists continue to confront each other on campus, requiring UNC and Chapel Hill police to stand by in case of trouble.

The statue was vandalized many times over the years before it was pulled from its stone base to the ground. In January, then-Chancellor Carol Folt ordered the base removed, as well. The remains of the monument have been stored while a committee considers options of what to do with them.

A committee first was asked to offer a solution by mid-November but was given more time, and in December recommended a plan to construct a new campus building to house the statue and provide historical context for it. A week later, the Board of Governors nixed the $5.3 million plan and gave a new committee of five members of the board until March 15 to come up with another solution.

Folt, who resigned in January with plans to remain in her job until the end of the academic year, was told by the Board of Governors to leave by the end of January.

It was the March 15 deadline that was extended Monday.

Harris did not set a new deadline for a committee recommendation on the statue, but asked the group to give a report to the Board of Governors at its meeting set for May 20-22 in Chapel HIll.

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Martha Quillin is a general assignment reporter at The News & Observer who writes about North Carolina culture, religion and social issues. She has held jobs throughout the newsroom since 1987.