Maya Little, a Phd. student and activist enrolled at UNC Chapel Hill, is appealing the court’s verdict finding her guilty of damaging the Silent Sam statue. At a recent protest regarding the removal of the statue, students and members of the Chapel Hill community, including Little, cited the racist past of the Silent Sam monument. She was found guilty of vandalism after using red ink and her own blood to mark the base of the statue.
As for her issues with the verdict and reasoning behind her appeal, which was submitted on Wednesday, Little cited the court’s insufficient evidence, violation of her First Amendment rights, and unfair severity of the court’s sanctions. They punished her with a formal letter of warning and 18 hours of community service.
“I do not believe the honor court aims to give me a fair and impartial trial,” said Little to the News and Observer following the controversial two-day hearing. One of the panelists had previously been spoken out about his support of the Confederate statue, which led Little to make this statement after the student honor court panel voted 3-2 on her guilt.
The accusedly biased panelist, Frank Pray, is a law student who was suspected of deleting a post he made calling the Silent Sam protestors “petulant children.” He is also the leader of several conservative on-campus groups. Although he was documented to have found fellow student Little guilty of causing damage to the statue, Pray maintained that he was able to give her a fair trial.
In a 12-page document recording the hearing’s proceedings, which was posted to social media for UNC students to read, the Rationale for the Graduate and Professional Honors Court included dissents of the two panelists that disagreed with the court’s verdict. The dissenters spoke against the guilty finding, saying that they did not believe there was sufficient evidence to find Maya Little responsible for personally damaging the monument. Although Little stated that she was involved in the protest, which she said was a way for her to “contextualize” the statue’s white supremacist history, she did not claim responsibility for the damage inflicted on the statue itself.
“Ms. Little sought to contextualize the monument in a way that was both meaningful for herself and for many other students, faculty and staff at the University of North Carolina, “ wrote Adam Hunter, one of the two panelists that voted in Little’s favor, in his dissent. “While Ms. Little’s actions required costly clean-up, this dissenter does not believe that there is clear and convincing evidence that the monument was damaged, nor that it required repair.”
Another dissenter, Sydney Thai, agreed with Hunter, and stated that he urged for Frank Pray’s removal after Little expressed concern over his bias.
Amelia Ahern, the deputy vice chair of the honor court, found Little guilty of causing damage, and said that the punishments were intended to “allow Ms. Little to reflect on her actions and their consequences, pay forward via community service some of the man hours that went into repairing the statue, and would not be unduly punitive in restricting her ability to remain engaged in campus activities while pursuing her degree.”