• 45°

Other Voices: Silent Sam becoming Expensive Sam

StarNews of Wilmington

Can North Carolina still afford Silent Sam?

Sam, of course, is the monument to UNC Chapel Hill university students who lost their lives fighting for the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

Since 1913, when it was erected with funds from alumni and the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the statue of a young Confederate soldier has stood at the north end of campus near Franklin Street.

Over the years, Sam became an object of affection, at least among some white students and alumni. It didn’t matter, as some scandalmongers discovered, that sculptor John Wilson had used a Bostonian — indeed, a Yankee! — as the model for Sam. Or that Sam was a virtual copy of a statue of a Union soldier Wilson completed for a Northern town.

Others aren’t so fond. Folks have been calling for the statue’s removal since the early 1960s. Those calls renewed after the white supremacists’ march in Charlottesville, Va., last year. The statue was vandalized in 1968, in 2016 and again earlier this year.

Now comes word from the university’s campus police that security for the statue — posting guards around it, including one around-the-clock, etc., to keep it from being defaced and the area safe — cost some $390,000 last year. That’s not including $3,000 to clean off the blood-red paint that one protester splashed on it.

That’s a lot of money. As some cheeky students pointed out at a recent UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees committee meeting, that $390,000 could have been used to pay half of UNC System President Margaret Spellings’ salary. Or, to pay full tuition for 44 poor undergraduate students.

Given the cost — and regardless of the argument over the statue’s appropriateness — one has to wonder if keeping Sam in place is worth the money and fuss.

We’re not talking about demolishing the statue. But couldn’t it be moved away from its prominent location — essentially, the university’s front door — to a quieter, less controversial spot?

(There is, for example, a lovely antebellum cemetery on the southeastern end of campus, across the road from the old Carmichael Auditorium. Sam would fit in there.)

Moving all that bronze and granite would be expensive, of course, but certainly not as expensive as $390,000 per year for, how long?

Of course, the statue is going nowhere, at least not yet. In a move to protect similar Confederate monuments, the folks in the majority at the General Assembly passed a law in 2015, essentially providing that no memorial can be permanently removed from state property without approval by the N.C. Historical Commission. Even with that approval, lots of added hurdles in the law stand in the way. Given the political leanings of most of the Honorables, such approval isn’t likely to come any time soon.

So, remember this when some candidate tells you that we can’t afford new textbooks and supplies for our schoolchildren. Apparently we can afford $400,000 or so a year to have policemen guard a statue.

That’s something voters shouldn’t stay silent about.

Comments

Local

Scout’s Honor: With dedication of flag retirement box, Salem Fleming earns Eagle Scout rank

College

North Carolina king, queen of NCAA lacrosse tourneys

High School

High school football: State’s top honor goes to Jalon Walker

Education

Kannapolis seniors walk elementary schools

Local

Local real estate company employees come out in force to build Habitat house

Local

Quotes of the week

Coronavirus

Auditors find oversight lacking for $3 billion of state’s pandemic aid

Nation/World

When will gas situation return to normal?

Local

Rowan native Shuping posthumously receives Concord Police Department’s Medal of Valor, Purple Heart

News

GOP measure on penalties for rioting draws fire

News

Black high school softball player told to cut hair

Coronavirus

State shows 303 COVID-19 deaths in Rowan

Coronavirus

CDC: Fully vaccinated people can largely ditch masks indoors

Crime

One arrested, another hospitalized in Castor Road stabbing

China Grove

China Grove Roller Mill open for tours Saturday

News

Facing personnel deficiencies, local fire departments request tax rate increases

Local

‘Panic buying’ creates gas supply shortages locally, statewide after pipeline cyberattack

Business

Twice as nice: Planet Smoothie opens alongside Cold Stone Creamery in co-branded store

Local

Spencer board gets update on South Iredell rat problem

Education

West Rowan teacher awarded $15,000 outdoor learning grant

Cleveland

Town of Cleveland plans celebration May 22

High School

High school girls tennis: Busy Hornets win again easily

High School

High school softball: Nixon, Walton top all-county team

Education

All Hood Alumni and Friends Symposium scheduled June 18