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Dean’s statement on Silent Sam settlement

Like many, I have been dismayed and distressed since the November 27th UNC System statement detailing the settlement allowing for the disposition of Silent Sam. I am shocked by the UNC Board of Governors’ decision to authorize an arrangement that directs the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to turn over possession of the Confederate monument and transfer $2.5 million in non-state funds to the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

I disagree with the statement by UNC Board of Governors Chair Randy Ramsey that “This resolution allows the University to move forward and focus on its core mission of educating students.” Our collective UNC-Chapel Hill community cannot move forward by moving backwards, and this settlement takes us in the wrong direction. Rather than moving us forward, this news has been devastating for our entire campus community. This settlement also has fueled fear and generated pain across our University and in our School of Social Work (SSW), especially for faculty, staff and students of color.

Many questions remain unanswered by the UNC Board of Governors, which creates an extremely frustrating situation for us all. To help close this information gap, since the November 27th  announcement, I have been monitoring news releases and meeting with senior leaders in our School and across campus in an effort to learn more about this settlement and the process that led to this decision.

On the basis of the information that I have as of now, I conclude that responsibility for this settlement lies with the UNC Board of Governors.

As dean, as a member of this faculty for nearly 35 years, and as a UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work alumnus (’76), I firmly support the Faculty Council’s December 6th resolution on the Board of Governors’ settlement concerning the Confederate monument. The resolution reads,

“While we continue to support the permanent removal of the confederate monument known as Silent Sam from campus, we condemn the settlement that gives the statue and $2.5 million to the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Such a settlement supports white supremacist activity and therefore violates the university’s mission as well as its obligations to the state.”

I also fully support the UNC Campus Safety Commission’s statement on the UNC System’s settlement (December 6, 2019). In particular, I echo and underscore the last sentence in this statement: “And it [this settlement] violates every principle for which this institution of higher learning stands.”

I also fully agree with Chancellor Guskiewicz who states, “The settlement ensures the monument will never return to campus, but issues of racism and injustice persist, and the University must confront them.” Accordingly, I am committed to doing all in my power to help our University and our School to truly move forward through continued dialogue and advocacy.

While we are all waiting on clarification about the settlement and potential next steps, I encourage you to stay fully engaged and remain a source of support and solace for one another. Please also know that I will do my utmost to keep you all informed as I learn more myself.

In respect for all and with appreciation and gratitude for the strength of our social work community,


Gary L. Bowen, Ph.D., ACSW
Dean & Kenan Distinguished Professor

An earlier and extended version of the Dean’s statement was sent via email to all UNC School of Social Work faculty, staff and students, as well as to the School’s Board of Advisors, on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019.