UNC protesters mention ongoing frustrations in tenure dispute

After refusing tenure to an award-winning investigative journalist, who has been working on systemic racism for many years, the school is seeing a resurgence in discontent about how Black students, faculty, and staff are treated at North Carolina's flagship university.

UNC protesters mention ongoing frustrations in tenure dispute

A crowd of hundreds of students from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill met on Friday to demand that trustees reconsider Nikole Hannah Jones' tenure. She was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in recognition of her work on 1619 Project, which examined the bitter legacy of slavery.

Through a bullhorn, demonstrators described their frustrations over Black students' treatment at campus. They also held signs that read "1619...2021". The Same Struggle" and "I can give 1,619 reasons why Hannah Jones should be tenured."

The school's decision to stop Hannah-Jones' tenure application despite previous recipients of the distinction earlier this year sparked a storm of criticism within the community. Hannah-Jones' lawyers advised the school this week that Hannah-Jones would not be able to join the faculty without tenure.

After a meeting last Wednesday, the Carolina Black Caucus, an academic group, reported that more of its members were considering leaving the school. This prompted Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and other caucus leaders to call for a meeting.

Patricia Harris, vice-chair of the caucus director of recruitment at the school of Education, stated that "the morale is low."

This is not an isolated incident. She said that it has exacerbated the problems we have been seeing on campus and in the country with Black faculty, staff, and students. "This is a systemic problem where the goal posts for people of color are constantly being moved."

In 1974, Black students demanded the establishment of an African American Studies Center. In 2004, the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History was opened. This three-decade delay is part a long history of problems faced by Black people who worked or studied at UNC.

John K. Chapman, then-Ph.D. candidate, submitted a dissertation to UNC in 2006. It highlighted struggles by Black staff members at the school in the 1960s. This was in the first years of desegregation. Chapman wrote that the UNC Housekeepers Association began a long struggle to end Jim Crow employment practices at UNC. This led to a 1996 legal victory that gave raises, increased training, and formal recognition of the contributions of Black workers to UNC.

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