Just last month, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones was excited to let her friends, family and readers know that she would be returning to her alma mater, the University of North Carolina, to work as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism. Given that the Knight Chair is typically a position that comes with tenure, many believed that Hannah-Jones would receive tenure from the university. However, many were surprised that she was offered a fixed five-year position instead. The university's decision sparked outrage from every corner of the country. Even University of North Carolina Hussman School of Journalism Dean Susan King called the decision "disappointing."
“I don’t want to get into a food fight. I want to make sure that our students have the opportunity to have someone of her caliber here and to learn from her. I think our faculty do as well. I realize this is a fraught era in the state. When I heard that the chancellor and the provost wanted to move to this, it was better than having a battle royale about the theory of academic freedom," she continued.
More recently, University of North Carolina Student Body President Lamar Richards penned a thoughtful letter to the board of trustees. The college sophomore has called on the university to accept input from the community and be more transparent with their decisions moving forward.
“The time has come to be vigilant, just, and equitable in our leadership and decision making, I say ‘our’ realizing that I have only just joined the Board, yet I take ownership and responsibility for every decision made here on out. And, most importantly, I take ownership for when I choose to remain silent and allow policy, procedure, and justice to be subsided," he wrote.
As it pertains to the matter at hand, Richards believes that a public vote should take place. He also believes that their should be an open community meeting where faculty members and students can voice their opinions, grievances and frustrations.
“If she should decide not to come to this University as a result of not being considered for tenure, Kevin: I want you to know that you would have lost my faith in your ability to lead this University alongside the 30,000 students I represent,” he added, referring to University of North Carolina Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz.
“I do truly believe that our perspectives are the most important. Student perspectives will continually recenter the University to where we need to be. I won’t say I’m an expert on student affairs and student perspective, but what I will say is that I’m an expert at knowing when a decision lacks student perspective.”
Photo Credit: Getty Images