Early this morning, Duke president Vincent Price authorized the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue that had stood at the entrance to Duke Chapel.

The figure, one of ten that surrounds the entrance to the chapel, had been vandalized Wednesday night amid nationwide calls for the removal of Confederate monuments.

“I took this course of action to protect Duke Chapel, to ensure the vital safety of students and community members who worship there, and above all to express the deep and abiding values of our university,” Price said in an email to the Duke community. “The removal also presents an opportunity for us to learn and heal. The statue will be preserved so that students can study Duke’s complex past and take part in a more inclusive future.”

Price wrote that the damage to the statue “made clear that the turmoil and turbulence of recent months do not stop at Duke’s gates.”

“We have a responsibility to come together as a community to determine how we can respond to this unrest in a way that demonstrates our firm commitment to justice, not discrimination; to civil protest, not violence; to authentic dialogue, not rhetoric; and to empathy, not hatred,” he said.

Price said he will be convening a commission to “advise on next steps” and to “look at how we memorialize individuals on the Duke campus.”

“In addition, and in concert with Provost Sally Kornbluth, we will use the next year to explore various aspects of Duke’s history and ambitions through teaching and scholarship. This will include an exhibition in the Library; a campus conversation about controversy and injustice in Duke’s history; and a forum to explore academic freedom, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly in the university. Further information about these programs will be forthcoming,” he said.

An alumni petition calling for the removal of the statue gathered more than one thousand signatures pledging not to give any financial contributions to the school until the statue was removed.

“At the time of the construction of the Duke Chapel, many people falsely believed Robert E. Lee was a Christian, an abolitionist, and helped reunite the country after the Civil War,” the petition reads. “Luckily, history has been able to clarify and correct this record.”

Meanwhile, the mayor of Chapel Hill and student organizations at the University of North Carolina are calling for Silent Sam, a monument to Confederate soldiers, to be removed.