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Wednesday February 1st

Faculty Executive Committee calls special meeting to discuss Hannah-Jones' non-tenure

Screenshot from the Special Faculty Executive Committee meeting on May 24, 2021.
Buy Photos Screenshot from the Special Faculty Executive Committee meeting on May 24, 2021.

The UNC Faculty Executive Committee held a special meeting on Monday to discuss the Board of Trustees’ decision to not take action on approving Nikole Hannah-Jones' tenure.

What’s new? 

  • In the open session, the committee discussed ways to request for the Board to revisit Hannah-Jones' tenure case.  
    • Mimi Chapman, chairperson of the faculty, said she also wanted members to consider next steps if their request is not positively received. 
    • Pharmacy professor Timothy Ives said he hoped the Board would acknowledge the committee’s appeal. 
      • “You would hope you’ve got a Board of Trustees and a chair that would at least respond with a rationale,” Ives said. “That’s the bare minimum.” 
    • Sue Estroff, a professor of social medicine, said the faculty could express their views to the Faculty Committee on University Government in the event of inaction by the Board. 
    • Secretary of the faculty Vin Steponaitis said he believes the committee should focus more on effectively communicating key issues as opposed to how the request may be handled. 
    • Steponaitis also said he would like to see the long-standing tradition of BOT respect for faculty recommendations upheld. 
      • “I think we have to reaffirm that principle first and foremost, because that applies across the board, not just in this tenure case,” he said. “It was because the faculty saw that principle violated, they are now so upset.” 
    • Faculty from the Hussman School of Journalism and Media also released a statement condemning the outcome. Steponaitis said the Board has yet to respond to the statement. 
    • Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, a professor of nutrition and medicine, said she believes the Board should be held responsible for this lack of acknowledgment. 
      • “The Board of Trustees is accountable to us as a University community for their inaction,” she said. 
  • The committee also drafted a statement urging the Board to reexamine its verdict and provide an explanation regarding its decision-making. 
    • Chapman said the statement needs to call for the immediate reconsideration of the decision since it deals with employment.
      • “She is waiting,” Chapman said. “She will take another job.” 
    • Rumay Alexander, a professor in the School of Nursing, said she thinks the statement needs to express the committee’s discontent with the decision. 
      • “It’s a breach of trust,” she said. “I do think we need to take a position.” 
    • Law professor Eric Muller said he agreed with Rumay’s stance.
      • “I see no reason to hide the fact that we are outraged,” Muller said. “That’s not going to come as news to them. So since they know already, better to share with our constituents that we share their outrage.” 
    • The committee drafted a statement urging the Board of Trustees to uphold faculty tenure recommendations and to reconsider tenure for Hannah-Jones. The statement also said the Board needs to explain the reasons for its decision to fullest extent possible without violating the law. 
  • Deb Aikat, an associate professor of journalism, said he encourages the committee to urge Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Provost Bob Blouin to take action as well. 
    • Aikat said he believes Guskiewicz’s statement regarding the decision was inadequate. He also said Guskiewicz and Blouin have both been “suspiciously silent” on the matter. 

Who is on the committee? 

  • The committee is composed of elected members of UNC's faculty. 

What’s next?

  • The committee will meet again in June.


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