The Center for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies joins so many other Departments and Centers across the University in denouncing the decision by the Board of Trustees at the University of North Carolina to deny Nikole Hannah-Jones tenure in the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media. Despite a clear record of international distinction, a Pulitzer Prize, a MacArthur Fellowship, election to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the endorsement of UNC’s School of Journalism, the university tenure and promotion committee, faculty consulted outside the university, and the University’s dean and provost, the Board of Trustees failed to consider her case for tenure. This flagrant interference on plainly political grounds represents a clear and unacceptable breach of academic freedom and self-governance.
The nakedly political decision to defer consideration of tenure for Hannah-Jones will cause serious and lasting damage to the reputation of the University and is a major setback to all those working to advance the mission of the University. This decision will hurt our ability to attract leading scholars and researchers in all disciplines and is extremely damaging to the morale of the existing faculty at UNC, especially our BIPOC faculty. Actions of this kind suggest to the world that the University of North Carolina is not willing to face up to a history of racial exclusion and discrimination. As faculty focused on developing the Global mission of the University, we have already experienced sanctions and criticism from our international partners for political decisions that damage the reputation of our University. By further associating the name of UNC with arbitrary, political and racially motivated governance, the BOT’s action, if not reversed, will damage generations of faculty, staff, students, alumni and other Tar Heels working to maintain the reputation of UNC as a leading public university in the United States and the world.