May 27, 2021
Dear Members of the UNC Board of Trustees, Chancellor Guskiewicz, and Provost Blouin:
As members of the University of North Carolina Alumni Committee for Racial and Ethnic Diversity, (ACRED), we write seeking the support of your awarding tenure, prior to the beginning of the 2021-22 academic year, to professor Nikole Hannah-Jones, and we ask that the process be conducted in full transparency and compliance with the procedures and precedent afforded to all previous Knight Chairs.
Each ACRED member proudly accepts the University’s invitation to serve as ambassadors supporting, promoting, recruiting, and fundraising on behalf of the University of North Carolina (UNC). We are both thankful for the opportunity and honored to help our university reach its many goals. One of our members’ most treasured memories from our time at UNC revolves around the discussions held with our many professors; how they challenged our beliefs, expanded our worldview, shattered our paradigms, and helped deepen our values. Yet, candidly, we also yearned to see sitting next to us, in addition to more students of our same race and ethnicity, more professors and university leaders that look like us, speak like us, and that also understood first-hand not only who we are, but also from where we come. Hiring and retaining tenured faculty who bring a wealth of diverse experiences, dynamic and even provocative perspectives helps ensure UNC recruits students that reflect our diverse North Carolina community as well as the world in which we want our students to succeed.
We are here to support you at this crucial crossroads between rhetoric and reality. You approved a Strategic Initiative that eloquently, passionately, and accurately describes how our University has struggled with “realities of racism and prejudices in society.” Any potential backroom deal to not offer tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones noticeably reinforces a double standard for diverse women. We can, and must, do better. As individuals and as an institution, let us lead by example and follow a consistent, transparent and equitable tenure awarding process for ALL qualified and fully vetted professors.
We applaud you for stating that Building our Community Together is our first strategic goal and that our beloved “University is committed to combatting structural racism and discrimination in society and we recognize our role in fostering a more inclusive environment on our campus and community.” Ensuring that the tenure awarding process is free from the pitfalls caused by structural racism requires that all candidates follow the same consistent process as clearly delineated in Faculty Chair Mimi Chapman’s May 19, 2021 remarks at the University Affairs committee meeting. We urge you to fairly complete the process by duly reviewing and awarding tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones.
For us this is personal. It is personal because we have, too often, encountered professional walls due to the manipulation of hiring systems and procedures based on our race, ethnicity, gender, and/or language. Other Knight Chairs were not asked to wait five years for the possibility of tenure. This response sounds all too familiar to us. By denying or delaying tenure, we risk the chance of losing a person the department and UNC sought out and vetted as a key contributor to reaching UNC’s goals.
Nikole Hannah-Jones is a journalist who uses facts and words to expand perspectives, force a broader narrative, and provide a more accurate and richer past. Her writing has unearthed stories of lives, the value they had or were denied, and the undeniable impact of how acknowledged and unacknowledged history plays in our current lives. Her work unveils hushed secrets of our country’s past by telling us the What and How of our nation’s past so that we can begin to better understand the Why of our present. Her work might not make us feel better, but it certainly has made us better informed. That is what we want for each of our students and for our great university.
ACRED extends a warm welcome home to our fellow alumna, Nikole Hannah-Jones. We look forward to her starting the 2021-22 academic year as a fully tenured professor!
Lucrecia Moore, ACRED Chair
Virginia L. Cárdenas, ACRED Vice-Chair, Incoming Chair
Lou Patalano, ACRED incoming Vice- Chair