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UNC students are preparing to sue over confederate statue — their claims will flabbergast you

Students at UNC-Chapel Hill have threatened to sue the school for allegedly violating the 1964 Civil Rights Act for refusing to tear down a confederate statue. (Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

Students at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill are threatening to sue the school over the administration's continued refusal to tear down a confederate monument on campus.

Who sent the suit?

Powerhouse New York law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner, which once represented then-Vice President Al Gore in Bush v. Gore in 2000, sent the suit last week on behalf of UNC's Black Law Students Association, the group's faculty adviser and 12 other students, according to the Daily Tar Heel. They sent the suit to UNC chancellor Carol Folt, UNC president Margaret Spellings, the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees and the UNC Board of Governors.

What are they suing for and why?

The students claim that a confederate statue on campus, known as "Silent Sam," violates federal law, specifically Title IV and Title VI of 1964 Civil Rights Act, which makes racial discrimination unlawful. The students:

  • demand that UNC "immediately remove the monument of an armed Confederate soldier, known as Silent Sam, from the middle of campus."
  • argue the statue "violates federal anti-discrimination laws by fostering a racially hostile learning environment."
  • declare: "Because Silent Sam violates the rights guaranteed by these and other federal laws, we request that you authorize its immediate removal in order to avoid needless litigation."

Who is Silent Sam?

According to Campus Reform:

Silent Sam, a 1913 memorial to Confederate UNC alumni, “holds a rifle,” but “is silent because he wears no cartridge box for ammunition.” The statue has long been the subject of controversy, and past vandalism has cost UNC “more than $40,000,” according to a spokesperson for the school.

How did the school respond?

Joel Curran, vice chancellor of university communications, told the Daily Tar Heel:

We have received the letter and understand that for many people the Confederate Monument’s presence can engender strong emotions, and we are respectful of those emotions. While we do not have the unilateral legal authority to move the monument, these students have raised questions about federal civil rights law that will need to be addressed, and we will work with our Board of Trustees and Board of Governors to do so. In the meantime, the Chancellor’s Task Force on UNC-Chapel Hill History is developing an interpretive plan for McCorkle Place that will include signage presenting historical context of how the monument was erected as part of a broader effort to tell the honest and accurate history of the University.
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