Over the last several weeks, the campus community has united in a way I have never experienced in my decade at UNC. Clearly, we share more than our Duke rivalry. There is a core Carolina belief system that is deeply held, and it is impressive.
We are a university of diverse disciplines. Medical researchers in labs meticulously searching for answers, pharmacists developing new drugs that can solve old problems, public health professionals seeking answers to stubborn diseases, social scientists asking about human behavior, data and computer scientists inventing tomorrow’s language and scholars of all sorts, in law and business, as well as artists, musicians and writers. Diverse, yet all of these great UNC schools and departments have joined our Hussman scholars, communicators and journalists to stand together for the ideal of academic freedom. Usually, we each focus on our own discipline and moving it forward as we prepare students to lead in a very changing world. We often work alone.
Why has the tenure case of Nikole Hannah-Jones galvanized so many of us to stand together? I believe it is because we are committed to the idea that this first public university was created to foster a society that would stand for values and progress. That the university was intended to prepare our state for new centuries and new challenges.
The faculty and staff who are the heartbeat of our university aren’t here because it offers the best pay or has the most dynamic facilities. We are here because we believe in the promise of higher education, of academic freedom, in the idea that we can forge understanding out of debate, and that students of every perspective and background deserve our best. Access to ideas, opportunity and achievement for all is at the very center of UNC’s soul. We believe a university is where ideas are explored and big problems are tackled in an atmosphere of respect. We don’t expect our future to be shaped by politics or whims or fads — but by evidence and academic rigor.
This has been a long and disconcerting year of pandemic, social strife, partisanship and personal loss. It is also a year when we have come together to stand for the ideals that originated this university.
On behalf of the Hussman faculty, staff, students and alumni, a deep thank you to the Carolina community for the support so many have given us. You have led a chorus that has included the voices of our peers in higher education, industry leaders and all those who support the concept of academic freedom. I believe we will be a stronger institution going forward than when this saga began.
Dean Susan King, John Thomas Kerr Distinguished Professor
UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media
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