Racism and Reactionary Politics Kept Nikole Hannah-Jones from Joining UNC.
What Comes Next Is Up to Us
Today, we learned that Ms. Nikole Hannah-Jones has declined a tenured appointment as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media.
While disappointed, we are not surprised. We support Ms. Hannah-Jones’s choice. The appalling treatment of one of our nation’s most-decorated journalists by her own alma mater was humiliating, inappropriate, and unjust.
We will be frank: It was racist.
Our school highly regards Ms. Hannah-Jones’s work, ability, and achievements. We regret that the top echelons of leadership at UNC-Chapel Hill failed to follow established processes, did not conduct themselves professionally and transparently, and created a crisis that shamed our institution, all because of Ms. Hannah-Jones’s honest accounting of America’s racial history. It is understandable why Ms. Hannah-Jones would take her brilliance elsewhere.
Although our school and university espouse the ideals of transparency, equity, inclusivity, and fairness, the proclamation of such lofty goals without accompanying action toward dismantling systemic racism precludes substantive progress. North Carolina’s state motto is “To be rather than to seem.” And yet, Ms. Hannah-Jones would have been only the second Black woman to earn tenure in the School of Journalism and Media, a 70-year-old institution. The first earned tenure a mere three years ago. Ms. Hannah-Jones would have been the sole Black woman at the rank of full professor level in our school; at the university level, only 3.1% of tenured faculty are Black women.
The fight for the future of our university and school continues. What has occurred over the past several months has brought long-ignored issues in our community and nation to the forefront, but it has done so at the expense of the morale and well-being of students, staff and faculty, especially those who are BIPOC. We offer our unconditional support for the many who, like Ms. Hannah-Jones, have chosen to stay away or leave rather than serve an institution that repeatedly devalues, disregards, and degrades their perspectives, experiences, and contributions.
We offer our appreciation to Ms. Hannah-Jones for igniting this conversation, as well as our profound apology for what she has endured. It will not be in vain. The School of Journalism and Media is already working toward a full and transparent accounting of what transpired over the course of Ms. Hannah-Jones’ hire. We are reestablishing our autonomy, clarifying our values, and will demonstrate a model of faculty governance guided by diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.
We are grateful to the many members of our university, academic, professional, and Chapel Hill communities for their support. We are equally thankful for the students and alumni whose words and actions reflect the best of our school. We strive to live up to your ideals, and will continue to fight to make UNC a university for all people.
Signatories (in alphabetical order):
- Deb Aikat, Associate Professor
- Lucinda Austin, Associate Professor and PhD Program Director
- Andy Bechtel, Associate Professor
- Lois Boynton, Associate Professor
- Stephanie W. Brown, Park Library Director
- Francesca R. Dillman Carpentier, W. Horace Carter Distinguished Professor
- Bill Cokas, Adjunct Instructor
- Maria Leonora (Nori) G. Comello, Associate Professor
- Paul Cuadros, Associate Professor
- Patrick Davison, Professor
- Julie Dixon, Professor of the Practice
- Tori Smith Ekstrand, Associate Professor, Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Distinguished Professor, UNC Graduate School
- Jay Eubank, Director of Career Services
- Deen Freelon, Associate Professor
- Livis Freeman Jr., Teaching Assistant Professor
- Barbara Friedman, Associate Professor
- Rhonda Gibson, James H. Shumaker Term Professor
- Elia Grahl, Undergraduate Hub Coordinator
- Casey Hart, Assistant Director of Graduate Studies
- Chad Heartwood, Associate Professor
- Heidi Hennink-Kaminski, Professor and Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Studies
- Angelia Herrin, Adjunct Instructor
- Angelena King, Special Funding Manager
- Nazanin B. Knudsen, Adjunct Instructor
- Daniel Kreiss, Edgar Thomas Cato Distinguished Professor
- Allison Lazard, E. Reese Felts Jr. Distinguished Associate Professor
- Tom Linden, Glaxo Wellcome Distinguished Professor of Medical Journalism
- Trevy A. McDonald, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and 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
- Terence Oliver, Walter Spearman Distinguished Professor
- Seth M. Noar, James Howard and Hallie McLean Parker Distinguished Professor
- Erica Beshears Perel, Director of Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media
- Liana Pinner, Director of Global, Immersive and Professional Programs
- Tamara Rice, Adjunct Instructor
- Tricia Robinson, Student Records Assistant
- John Robinson, Stembler Professional in Residence
- Laura Ruel, Associate Professor
- Kate Sheppard, Teaching Associate Professor
- Ann Marcella Schmitt, Graduate Program Coordinator
- Jenn Sipe, Assistant Director of Career Services
- John Sweeney, Distinguished Professor in Sports Communication
- Ryan Thornburg, Associate Professor
- Sarah Vassello, program coordinator at Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media
- Lisa Servia Villamil, Assistant Professor
- Matt White, Adjunct Instructor
- Barbara Wiedemann, Communications Strategist
- Xinyan (Eva) Zhao, Assistant Professor