‘GRADE STRIKE’: Teachers Withhold Grades To Protest Confederate Monument

Demonstrators and spectators gather around a toppled Confederate statue known as Silent Sam Monday, Aug. 20, 2018 at UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C.
Julia Wall/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS via Getty Images

Activists demanding the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill change their plans to house a Confederate monument in a campus building say teaching assistants and instructors have pledged to withhold more than 2,000 final grades unless their demands are met.

At least 79 teaching assistants and instructors have allegedly joined a “grade strike” to keep Chapel Hill from putting its “Silent Sam” monument in a campus center. A spokeswoman for the university could not verify the number of teachers or the number of grades withheld to a reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

On August 20, 2018, protesters knocked over the “Silent Sam” statue, which was placed on campus in 1913 to memorialize the 300 alumni who fought in the Confederate Army. Wanting the statute removed was a noble act, committing a crime to do so was not, as Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro wrote at the time:

But it isn’t good that people are destroying public property in a democracy, without the law applying. When protesters tore down statues of Stalin in the former Soviet Union or Saddam Hussein in Iraq, they did so because there was no legal regime from which to seek redress. That simply isn’t true in the United States. There’s a case to be made for removing statues from public property by legislative act, but there’s no case to be made for vandalism, which undermines the principle of actual democratic change. Mobs are not what democracy looks like.

Police were also allegedly told to stand down the night of the protests and allow students and activists to commit a crime, according to emails and texts sent from Police Chief Chris Blue. Ten days later, police arrested three during follow-up protests.

In the wake of the protests, the university agreed to keep the statue down but planned to move it to a campus history center. New protests began last Monday in response to the school’s plans, and activists pushed “UNC TAs and faculty to withhold grading final exams or assignments for the fall 2018 semester” until “the Board of Trustees withdraw the proposal to spend $5.3 million dollars to build a separate ‘indoor location’ to house Silent Sam on UNC’s campus, and to create a 40- person ‘mobile force’ at the tune of $2.2 million per year to further police student protests.”

The activists instead demanded that the statue be kept off campus grounds and the UNC Board of Governors hold "listening sessions in good faith with the campus community.” Activists said grades would be released if that demand was met, but followed up by threatening further protests unless additional demands are met, including:

1. Silent Sam never returns to campus, even through a center to its memory.

2. The Board of Trustees explain what the new campus policing policies are and withdraw those new policies pertaining to “intelligence gathering” and “protest management,” and the “mobile force.”

3. Reallocate the money that would be used for the “mobile force” and Silent Sam center to increasing the wages for graduate and campus workers, including dental insurance for graduate workers and reduced parking fees for graduate and campus workers.

Robert A. Blouin, executive vice chancellor and provost at Chapel Hill, sent an email Thursday to school deans, according to the Chronicle. In it, he warned the grade strike “violates our university’s instructional responsibilities” and could result in legal action taken against the university and the teaching assistants and instructors withholding grades.

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