HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (AP) — A judge won’t let students intervene in a settlement that gave a Confederate heritage group money to preserve a monument that protesters tore down at North Carolina’s flagship public university.

Judge Allen Baddour in Orange County ruled that the University of North Carolina students represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law lacked standing to force their way into the legal case, according to WRAL-TV. The students had sought to join the case and then convince the judge to reject the legal agreement that granted possession of the “Silent Sam” statue to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, along with $2.5 million in university money for its upkeep.

The consent judgment was worked out by the UNC Board of Governors and the North Carolina division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Critics had questioned how the deal was quietly struck in a way that allowed the lawsuit and settlement to be filed in quick succession and then approved by Baddour just before Thanksgiving.

Silent Sam stood on the Chapel Hill campus for more than 100 years until protesters toppled it in August 2018. Critics say it symbolized racism and white supremacist views, while supporters argue the statue honored the memory of ancestors who died in the Civil War.

On Friday, attorney Mark Dorosin argued on behalf of the students seeking to intervene that the SCV had filed a “meritless” lawsuit in collaboration with the statewide university governing board so that it could be hastily settled and approved by a judge.

Press Millan, a lawyer representing the Board of Governors, argued that no students or faculty had been harmed by the deal so they shouldn’t be given standing to intervene.

While Baddour said the students lacked standing to intervene, he also asked the SCV and Board of Governors for more information about whether SCV had standing to file the lawsuit in the first place. Another hearing is expected at a later date.