This morning it was announced that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will construct a new building to properly house and interpret the Confederate statue known as “Silent Sam”, which was toppled over by students a few months ago, as well as the broader history of the school. As I have said all along, this is my preferred outcome. Though I appreciate many of the concerns expressed by people from within the community and beyond, including concerns about costs, I think the university is perfectly equipped for such a project.
The school follows the University of Texas at Austin, which chose to display and interpret a statue of Jefferson Davis after it was removed from campus in 2015. This decision today offers a number of educational opportunities for UNC’s faculty, students, and the broader community.
I will be very interested to see how the community approaches the design of the building and the space set aside specifically for Silent Sam. My hope is that everyone at UNC, but especially the students, has an opportunity to share their ideas about how the statue is displayed and interpreted. I look forward to seeing how teachers employ the space for classroom use. But more importantly, I look forward to seeing how students over time choose to use the space and impose their own meaning on the statue.