The Corner

PC Culture

The Vandals Win in Chapel Hill

Police and protesters surround the toppled statue of a Confederate soldier nicknamed Silent Sam on the University of North Carolina campus after a demonstration for its removal in Chapel Hill, N.C., August 20, 2018. (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)

For many years, there has been a statue of a Confederate infantryman (known as “Silent Sam”) on the campus of the University of North Carolina. For the last several years, the statue has been the target of “progressive” forces who say that they are offended by its presence. Supposedly the statue “stood for” white supremacy even though no one on the faculty or in administration has harbored such sentiments since about the 1940s. But “progressives” are consumed with rage over symbols, so Silent Sam was under attack.

Just two days ago, a mob succeeded in pulling down the statue. In today’s Martin Center commentary, Jay Schalin reflects on what it tells us about the UNC leadership. He writes,

A lot more fell than a Progressive-era statue of a Confederate soldier. Another brick in the wall that separates civilization and barbarism was dislodged. Another small part of the social contract that calls on us to settle our differences through dialogue and consensus disappeared. Another thin thread in the rule of law was severed.

A big question about the toppling of the statue is, “Why didn’t campus police stop it?” After all, the mob’s intent was no secret and it would take time for the group to accomplish its task of destruction. Did UNC officials tell the police to just let it happen? Schalin writes,

The events of August 20th suggest that the campus police did not protect Sam to the fullest of their ability. It was well known that the possibility of vandalism to Sam that night was extremely high. Social media posts and flyers posted all along Franklin Street announced the protest for days — security should have been at a high point.

Some of the top brass at UNC have denounced the vandalism, but words are cheap. Will there be any prosecutions for this criminal act? I wouldn’t count on it, even though there is plenty of video evidence and many of the mobsters are bragging about their participation.

Now that Silent Sam is down, will the radicals stop their vandalism, or will they just choose a new target? I would guess the latter, since leftists always need new issues to keep people inflamed. Otherwise, people might notice that the university is in fact no different after the destruction and ask whether it was worth it.

How UNC responds will affect public perceptions. Schalin concludes,

There is, then, some danger of UNC becoming known for its radical ideas and inability to handle mob rule, which in turn can affect its overall reputation. That has already happened to the University of Missouri, causing its applications, admissions standards, national ranking, and enrollment to drop. Or, by taking strong, swift actions to drive off its worst elements and to restore civility, it can become a national leader in the movements to maintain free inquiry and reform the academy.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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