On academic freedom: Affirming our integrity and independence
It seems apparent that the UNC Board of Trustees has again failed to review Nikole Hannah-Jones’s dossier for appointment as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism with tenure, despite affirmation at all previous levels of rigorous review. Their inaction is a blatant disregard for time-honored tenure procedures and for the university and Board of Trustees’ endorsed values of diversity, equity and inclusion.
We, the undersigned faculty of the UNC-Chapel Hill Hussman School of Journalism and Media, condemn the Board’s failure to grant Hannah-Jones tenure in the strongest terms. The fact that the Board’s inaction might have resulted from donor influence is especially alarming.
We respect the spirited support of our alumni and donors committed to the sustained excellence of our School and UNC, and we welcome public comments on our actions. When making important decisions, it is routine for our School to call on the expertise of an alumni-led advisory group for input regarding our mission.
Yet autonomy is vital in all hiring, tenure, and promotion decisions. Our faculty hires undergo a sustained, intensive process of review by faculty and university committees based on established procedures at the School and UNC. As educators in constant engagement with students and the industry roles for which we prepare them, there should be no question that we are best positioned to determine what is in their best interest and most beneficial to their learning and skills development.
We are grateful to hear that our namesake donor, despite his reservations about the hire of Hannah-Jones, remains committed to the School and to principles of philanthropic distance and academic freedom. We are also appreciative of the more than 30 groups at UNC, across academia, and in the professional world that have made strong public statements in support of hiring Hannah-Jones with tenure.
We know that Hannah-Jones — like all of our faculty — will engage students in important conversations about journalism in the United States and the world. Tenure honors and protects the ability of professors like Hannah-Jones to continue asking the hard questions that move our country toward a more just and equitable future. Academic freedom protects our faculty’s ability to make informed, carefully considered decisions regarding curricula, which we design with our students’ best interests in mind.
To maintain our commitment to excellence, to enrich the next generation of leaders, and because of her exceptional merit, we again call on the Board of Trustees to tenure Nikole Hannah-Jones as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism — with immediacy and ease.
- Deb Aikat, Associate Professor
- Lucinda Austin, Assistant Professor
- Andy Bechtel, Associate Professor
- Lois Boynton, Associate Professor
- Stephanie Willen Brown, Director of Park Library
- Paul Cuadros, Associate Professor
- Maria Leonora (Nori) Comello, Associate Professor
- Patrick Davison, Professor
- Francesca Dillman Carpentier, W. Horace Carter Distinguished Professor
- Julie Dixon, Professor of the Practice
- Victoria Smith Ekstrand, Associate Professor & Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Distinguished Professor for Graduate Education
- Deen Freelon, Associate Professor
- Livis Freeman, Assistant Professor
- Barbara Friedman, Associate Professor
- Rhonda Gibson, James H. Shumaker Professor
- Chad Heartwood, Associate Professor
- Heidi Hennink-Kaminski, Hugh Morton Distinguished Professor
- Joe Bob Hester, Associate Professor
- Steven King, Associate Professor
- Nazanin B. Knudsen, Adjunct Instructor
- Daniel Kreiss, Edgar Thomas Cato Distinguished Associate Professor
- Sarah Lamm, Adjunct Instructor
- Allison Lazard, Associate Professor
- Tom Linden, Glaxo Wellcome Distinguished Professor of Medical Journalism
- Farnosh Mazandarani, Doctoral Candidate
- Trevy A. McDonald, Julian W. Scheer Term Associate Professor
- Michael McElroy, Adjunct Instructor
- Shannon C. McGregor, Assistant Professor
- Lee McGuigan, Assistant Professor
- Erin Siegal McIntyre, Assistant Professor
- Dana McMahan, Professor of the Practice
- Lee Meredith, Adjunct Instructor
- Seth M. Noar, James Howard and Hallie McLean Parker Distinguished Professor
- Terence Oliver, Walter Spearman Distinguished Professor
- Tamara Rice, Adjunct Professor
- John L. Robinson, Stembler Professional in Residence
- Laura Ruel, Associate Professor
- Kate Sheppard, Teaching Associate Professor
- John Sweeney, Distinguished Professor
- Ryan Thornburg, Associate Professor
- Lisa Servia Villamil, Assistant Professor
- Barbara Wiedemann, Communications Strategist