Earlier this week, UNC's Hussman School of Journalism and Media’s accreditation status was downgraded by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications, according to a report by WRAL’s Cullen Browder.
Challenges to the Hussman School’s accreditation come after ACEJMC found the program out of compliance with its 2021 standards for diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice.
Despite immediate, and understandable, outrage at the profoundly irresponsible administration that allowed this to happen, we shouldn’t be surprised that the program’s priorities are so maligned. It’s nothing that the journalism school – and UNC as a whole – hasn’t demonstrated to us before.
Heidi Hennink-Kaminski, interim dean of the Hussman school, naively told WRAL that this decision was “unexpected.” In reality, sanctions against a program that has routinely denied opportunity for BIPOC faculty and students are overdue.
Nikole Hannah-Jones being initially denied tenure prompted BIPOC faculty to call out longstanding inequities that go far beyond the events of last summer. The first and only Black woman to have tenure in the Hussman School – Dr. Trevy McDonald – was not awarded this status until 2018.
BIPOC faculty bear the burden of orchestrating racial equity initiatives, often working unpaid hours to petition for and spearhead DEI reforms. Meanwhile, they are vastly underrepresented. White members make up about 73 percent of UNC’s faculty. Black students are only 8 percent of the student population, despite making up over 20 percent of the state population.
Meanwhile, a predominately white administration has systemically ignored the demands of Black student leaders, even going so far as to make multi-million dollar deals with Confederate groups.
It’s not just a Hussman problem, but a reflection of UNC as a whole. There is an institutional unwillingness to grapple with longstanding gaps in equity for students and faculty of color.
Don’t let the magnitude of ACEJMC’s decision escape you, either. The Hussman School’s accreditation has been downgraded to a provisional status, joining only three other universities in the country. The school has two years to demonstrate compliance with the national accreditation committee’s standards to be regranted full accreditation, or stripped of this prestige completely.