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Over 2,000 grades may be withheld by major college's teaching assistants in strike over Confederate monument

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Teaching assistants at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill launched a "grade strike" Friday, Inside Higher Ed reported, noting they will hold back student grades if the school continues its plan to construct a building to house "Silent Sam," a controversial Confederate monument.

Demonstrators toppled Silent Sam — erected in 1913 to honor Confederate alumni who died in the Civil War — in August.

Organizers said to date 79 teaching assistants are part of the "action" to withhold 2,182 grades:

The school's board of trustees approved a plan to build a new History and Education Center to house Silent Sam and bring context to the prestigious college's history, the Daily Tar Heel reported. The center will cost an estimated $5.3 million, the student paper added, and about $800,000 annually to operate.

A joint statement signed by 171 faculty members as of Monday decried the board's decision and added that "we support both faculty and graduate student teaching assistants who choose not to grade final exams or assignments for the 2018 Fall semester to protest the University Board of Trustees' plan."

A faculty meeting Friday on the issue was marked by a protest in the room which had some faculty standing in agreement:

'Serious consequences'

Bob Blouin, executive vice chancellor and provost, sent an email Thursday to university deans alerting them of the strike's possibility and that it would violate the school's instructional responsibilities, the Daily Tar Heel said.

"Our students are entitled to receive their grades in a timely manner," Blouin noted in the email, according to the paper. "It is especially critical for the students preparing to graduate next Sunday, as well as the thousands of students whose scholarships, grants, loans, visa status, school transfers, job opportunities and military commissions may be imperiled because lack of grades threaten their eligibility."

Blouin added that he was informed that some instructors asked students to take a stand on the strike, the Daily Tar Heel added, and that students and parents complained to him in response.

"Such actions have been interpreted as coercion and an exploitation of the teacher-student relationship and in fact are a violation of students' First Amendment rights as well as federal law," Blouin noted in the email, the paper said, adding that withholding grades "will result in serious consequences."

Confederate flags to go up

The Sons of Confederate Veterans raised a large Confederate flag beside a North Carolina highway, Inside Higher Ed noted, and said they intend to raise a flag in every county in the state to protest Silent Sam's toppling.

Final grades are due to students 72 hours after completion of final exams, the Daily Tar Heel said, citing the Office of the University Registrar — between Dec. 10 and Dec. 17.

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