Open Letter to the UNC-CH Board of Trustees and UNC-CH Leadership
From: The UNC-CH Department of Geography
Date: 2 June 2021
Re: Nikole Hannah-Jones tenure vote and academic freedom
We, the Department of Geography at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, urge the BOT to demonstrate respect for academic freedom and the tenure review process by immediately adopting the recommendations of the faculty, external evaluators, and university leadership to grant Nikole Hannah-Jones tenure. We need not reprint Hannah-Jones’ exceptional qualifications for the position as these are available in her tenure package, to which you have complete access. Our demand echoes and amplifies the concerns expressed by our colleagues from: the Hussmann School of Journalism; the Faculty Executive Committee; the College of Arts and Sciences Council of Chairs; the Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward; leadership from UNC-CH Student Government; UNC Chapel Hill alumni and supporters, and; the international community. Denial of tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones by the BOT is a grave threat to academic freedom and to our standing as a leading public research university.
Equally important is our concern for the impacts that your initial inaction has had for future tenure and promotion cases, particularly those in which current and future faculty participate in research and teaching that is deemed threatening to powerful people or institutions. The actions (and/or lack thereof) of the BOT makes some of our most important commitments as a department – recruiting, retaining, and advancing the work of exceptional and pathbreaking faculty – a practical impossibility. It has tarnished our university’s reputation.
In addition to an immediate review of the recommendation to grant Hannah-Jones tenure, we seek affirmation of UNC-CH leadership’s commitment to transparency, the maintenance of academic excellence without political interference, preservation of academic freedom, and to diversity, equity and inclusion in the service of the people of North Carolina.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Geography Faculty