The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication recently voted to grant provisional accreditation status to UNC's Hussman School of Journalism and Media.
This decision came despite the accrediting site team's decision to recommend reaccreditation after their October 2021 visit. Additionally, the ACEJMC Accrediting Committee voted unanimously to affirm the site team's recommendation in March.
The site team's 53-page report from their visit provides details about the standard they found Hussman to be out of compliance with — "Standard 3: Diversity and Inclusiveness."
The report said that Hussman students receive a quality education, as shown by their many Hearst awards, high placement rates and assessment indicators.
But according to the report, "It is not an overstatement to say the University and the school face major challenges that could be seen as a microcosm of some of the issues facing higher education. These include the influence of donors, the overt intrusion of politics into public universities, and, of course, issues around diversity and inclusion."
The report acknowledged the Hussman school's written diversity plan that contains overarching goals, and that the school integrates input from different stakeholders.
"However, the UNC Hussman School is dealing with an existential crisis both internally and externally," the report said. "The controversy surrounding the decision by Nikole Hannah-Jones to turn down a tenured, endowed chair at the school exposed long-standing problems. Many stem from inconsistencies in executing the goals in the 2016 Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan."
It added that Goal 4 of Hussman's 2016 diversity plan, which addresses the climate of the school, was the most problematic section. During the site team's visit, students and faculty spoke of the damage the Hannah-Jones decision caused, some saying that it highlighted underlying DEI issues.
Several minority students that were interviewed by the site team said they were expected to be the ones to teach diversity and inclusion in their classes.
Additionally, several faculty members of color said they have to be the ones to educate faculty and students on issues related to DEI.
"The DEI committee has identified some of these issues, but it is going to take a focused, sustained effort by everyone in the school, alumni and supporters to build an inclusive climate," the report said.
In regards to Goal 1 of the diversity plan, which was to "clearly define and publicize the school's commitment to diversity," the report said comments from students and faculty indicated that these efforts were mostly superficial.
"Several students referred to many of the diversity initiatives as going through the motions." the report said. "However, in the months after the Hannah-Jones incident, the school’s diversity committee, renamed the Access, Belonging, Inclusion, Diversity and Equity committee (ABIDE), has taken on this issue and others related to diversity and inclusion."
Goal 2 of the plan focused on the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty, staff, students and administration. The report said there was a slight increase in minority faculty, but that students and faculty had similar complaints as in the previous site visit.
"One junior student heading into his senior year said he had never been taught by a faculty member of color," the report said.
Finally, the report said Goal 3 of the plan, which was to provide diversity training for faculty and staff, was mostly on a voluntary basis. It also said DEI was lacking in many required Hussman courses.
"Several students complained that the introductory skills classes utilize examples that are what one described as 'culturally insensitive, bordering on racist,'" the report said. "Many faculty members said that more work is needed to diversify the curriculum. ABIDE is developing a plan to address the issue, but the DEI director voiced concern about getting adjunct faculty members, who teach most of the introductory skills courses, to implement curriculum changes."
In the summary section of the diversity and inclusiveness standard, the report said several faculty members and staff, especially those of color, said they are considering leaving the school.
The team also found that faculty and students also noted a lack of resources and funding for personnel, recruiting, curriculum development and programming.
The report said that the school must address its noncompliance with this standard by working "to match the diversity plan to ongoing initiatives in faculty and student recruitment and retention."
It also must ensure DEI is included in its curriculum.
"The previous site team stated that the school’s faculty and students 'aspire to be inclusive,'" the report said. "Aspiration is not a strategy."
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