Last week was a win for UNC students, faculty and alumni as a state judge vacated the UNC settlement over Silent Sam. Judge Allen Baddour held a hearing to reconsider his initial approval of the deal back in November, now ruling that the SCV did not have standing to bring the lawsuit in the first place.
Since the UNC Board of Governors was caught bribing the Sons of Confederate Veterans, critics of the hush money dealing have uncovered witnesses and documents leading questions to the validity of the settlement with the SCV.
The judge announced his decision at a hearing in Hillsborough, N.C., as five UNC students and a faculty member, represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, intervened to try to stop the settlement.
Silent Sam had stood in a prominent location on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill for more than a hundred years. The Confederate monument was toppled by protesters in August 2018, amid a wave of similar actions across the country.
After the statue came down, it was put into storage. The university system’s board of governors gave no indication about what they planned to do with the monument before a sudden announcement that the system had reached a deal with the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
As NPR reported in December, “The university system insisted it was settling a lawsuit, but court records show the board of governors’ chairman agreed to the deal before a lawsuit existed.” Baddour signed off on the deal just seven minutes after the lawsuit was filed.
In November, the UNC BOG gave the SCV $74,999 to purchase the “rights” to the toppled monument from the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which had gifted it to UNC in 1913.
Weeks after, UNC reportedly gave $2.5 million to the group, allegedly violating North Carolina’s open meetings law according to the DTH Media Corporation, the nonprofit that operates UNC-Chapel Hill’s Daily Tar Heel independent student newspaper.
In addition, The Daily Tarheel published internal SCV documents which show the group making illegal political donations and operating a political action committee in violation of its tax-exempt status. An affiliated motorcycle club called the Mechanized Cavalry, also run by SCV leader Kevin Stone, was found to have violated the same tax and campaign laws.
The report shows evidence that both groups funneled membership money into a political action committee called the NC Heritage PAC, which illegally donated to GOP lawmakers who are sympathetic to the groups’ neo-Confederate ideals.
Judge Baddour’s decision has moved this lawsuit onto the right path by placing the fate of Silent Sam with UNC.
In the coming months, the administrators, board of trustees and the UNC community should consider a process of removal that is transparent and lacks any financial motives — a process that the UNC BOG never considered.