UPDATE: Sept. 4, 2018: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt indicated in a statement Friday that Silent Sam, a controversial statue honoring Confederate soldiers that was pulled down by protestors last month, could be reinstalled elsewhere on campus, The New York Times reported. Folt said the university's board of governors signed off on the process of finding a "safe, legal and alternative" location for the statue, which previously resided near the entrance to campus.
- The board of governors has set a Nov. 15 deadline for school officials to come up with a "lawful and lasting" plan to relocate the statue, The News and Observer reported, and initially did not rule out returning the statue to its original location.
- Critics sought removal of the 105-year-old Silent Sam statue for years, but the university has said that was prohibited by historic preservation laws.
- The statue's toppling caught national attention and spurred an outburst of support among students, faculty and the general public for the statue's permanent removal or relocation to a site where it's meaning can be put into context.
Clashes and one death in Charlottesville, Virginia, during a white supremacist march last August prompted local officials to cover Confederate statues for several months until a judge ordered the tarps be removed. The University of Texas at Austin took down some Confederate statues at that time, and debate has continued about other such monuments on campuses across the country.
The tension over the Confederate monuments and the protests they have sparked are part of a wider-ranging discussion about the limits of free speech on campus, and college administrators are bracing for another year of controversy. Universities are increasing security funding and training for campus security, as well as creating opportunities for student dialogue on controversial issues, Politico reported. Some are also devising procedures for handling controversial speakers, which have caused conflict in the past, such as committees to review planned speakers and events in advance.
College administrators have been advised to listen to student complaints and address issues early, understand free speech law as it relates to their campuses and academic rights, and devise firm policies aligned with their college's mission.
Other experts have noted that institutions should recognize that there may be fewer incidents of free speech infringement than assumed, and both sides of the political spectrum are likely affected.