June 23, 2021
To the UNC Board of Trustees,
I am writing in support of the statement released by the Carolina Black Caucus and an op-ed from UNC study body president, Lamar Richards and in opposition to the inaction of the UNC BOT to convey tenure to Ms. Hannah-Jones, the Knight Chair of Race of Investigative Reporting at UNC-CH.
I joined the UNC faculty in 1997 as a tenure-track assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and have thus completed 23 years of service to the university. During this time, I have seen many changes come to the university, including scandals and challenges to the mission and integrity of the institution. However, the current actions of the BOT are perhaps one of the most egregious violations of the values that undergird UNC-CH that I have witnessed.
The protections of tenure create a place in democracy for the exchange of bold ideas, for the debate of opposing viewpoints, and for the creation of innovative solutions to deep societal challenges. The university, particularly in a divided society, is not the place for silencing voices. Recognition of the needed mix of viewpoints that create a thriving program and the leading voices through which knowledge and change will emerge, when needed, is field driven. For this reason, the decision by the BOT to ignore the favorable tenure vote by faculty in the School of Journalism and Dean King is deeply troubling.
Given the racial tensions that plague the campus, the BOT’s decision sends a clear message regarding the role of non-academic politics in university governance that interfere with an indefatigable commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion at Carolina. The implications for retaining faculty, including but not limited to faculty of color, on campus are already being realized and form a clear and present danger to the future of the institution. Rather than pride, many of our faculty, myself included, are ashamed of the actions of the institution we serve that may be seen as the passive promotion of an unfair and biased agenda. I strongly urge you to reconsider your decision, to support the faculty of the university, to protect the intellectual exchange of ideas in which education thrives, and to engender the acceptance of a diverse study and faculty body who will craft the future to come.