On a rainy Thursday afternoon a lethargic group of about 20 students and faculty gathered again outside the South Building to protest against Silent Sam with a sit-in. Sit-ins like this have been a daily occurrence since the semester began on August 22. “We’ve been doing this every day,” says grad student Maya Little, “It’s gotten a lot of attention.”
But, many on campus aren’t aware that the protestors are still here. Over 100 school days have passed since the sit-ins began. “Personally, I find it sort of arbitrary to be arguing about a monument,” said junior Logan Beard, “there are real-world issues going on around here and in our state. The homeless shelter in Chapel Hill is overcrowded, and vagrants flood out onto Franklin Street. That’s an issue that’s real.” Indeed, there are many other timely issues which require UNC student activists’ attention.
Here is a list of things UNC students have to be concerned about instead of Silent Sam:
- Tax cuts, the budget, gun control, and immigration reform are all issues that are still very much up for debate in Washington.
- In Raleigh, a host of new legislators have filed for candidacy in the midterms. The News and Observer reported that every legislative race in the state would feature both a Republican and Democrat candidate for the first time in history.
- Jalek Felton withdrew from UNC over allegations of unnamed misconduct.
- A plan for massive expansion of offshore drilling and seismic testing in North Carolina’s Outer Banks has the potential to threaten numerous communities and devastate the environment. Municipalities across the state have opposed the plan.
- The Supreme Court blocked a ruling on North Carolina’s gerrymandering controversy which would favor Republicans in the midterms.
- Duane Hall forcefully kissed a woman in a report detailing a slew of sexual harassment allegations.
- DACA permits start expiring on March 5th.
- People like Charles Gear have been living on and off Franklin Street since the 1980’s. Chapel Hill’s homelessness problem is persistent and hard to ignore.
- North Carolina Republicans are violating campaign policies by making automated calls without a disclaimer.
The list of pressing, current state and local issues worth our attention is lengthy, and yet many are determined to continue the sit-ins until their demands are met regarding a nearly 105-year-old statue.
When I met with the protesters at the sit-in, their tone wasn’t exactly friendly. Nor did they seem outraged enough to be overtly hostile. Most asked not to have their pictures taken and didn’t want to be associated with the protest. One told me he wasn’t a fan of the Review. Opponents of the statue claim that it deters African-American applicants from applying for admission. No one has provided any data to support this. No surveys have gone out or studies conducted on this issue by one of the nation’s leading research universities. It’s hard to imagine they’re after anything but the symbolism. That’s not to say symbolism isn’t worth a debate. But is it worth 150 days of protest? I’m not in the habit of advising political opponents. But at this point, we have to ask: Who cares anymore?