UNC student president tells future Tar Heels to 'look elsewhere' due to Hannah-Jones tenure fight

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Friday, June 18, 2021
UNC student body president slams his own university
The student body president at UNC Chapel Hill slammed his own university, telling some prospective students to "look elsewhere."

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- The student body president at UNC Chapel Hill slammed his own university, telling some prospective students to "look elsewhere."

Lamar Richards wrote an open letter, published in North Carolina Policy Watch, to say that UNC has fallen short in serving minority students.

"It's past time for a genuine reckoning at UNC," Richards wrote.

His letter comes in response to the controversy surrounding the hiring of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones.

Hannah-Jones, a UNC alum, was offered a position as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism. Reportedly, that position traditionally comes with an evaluation for tenure.

UNC's journalism school dean Susan King said Hannah-Jones' extensive tenure application went smoothly and Hannah-Jones was recommended for tenure.

That recommendation had to be approved by the school's Board of Trustees. In what many have seen as a political decision, the Board of Trustees refused to vote on Hannah-Jones' tenure.

Hannah-Jones created the 1619 Project. That project has become the target of many Republicans who said it is an attack on America's history and exceptionalism.

Hannah-Jones' critics said her award winning journalism career is too opinionated and not the type of journalism UNC students' should be taught.

WATCH: UNC Mega-donor emailed chancellor expressing concern over giving Nikole Hannah-Jones tenure

"I worry about the controversy of tying the UNC journalism school to the 1619 Project," Hussman wrote in an email last December.

But she appeared to have overwhelming support from the UNC faculty and students. One top chemist considering joining UNC's faculty publicly turned the university down because of this controversy--and multiple reports suggest some current faculty are considering leaving the university.

But the faculty were not alone in feeling outrage at the decision. Student body president Richards wrote in the open letter that racism and oppression continue to be the norm at UNC, saying that small improvements over the past decades in the name of reform have not solved the problem.

"You cannot reform a system rooted in oppression, racism, and hatred. Tragically, the term 'reform' at this university continues to be used as a subtle tactic to oppress students, faculty, and staff-past, present, and future alike."

He went on to say the soul of the university would be at stake if the system is not fixed, and he warned prospective students against joining the Carolina family.

"Until this rebirth occurs, Carolina is not deserving of your talents, aspirations, or successes. If you are a student, staff member, or academic from a historically marginalized identity exploring UNC, I invite you to look elsewhere. If you are considering graduate school, law school, medical school, or other professional programs at UNC, I challenge you to seek other options. While Carolina desperately needs your representation and cultural contributions, it will only bring you here to tokenize and exploit you. And to those that will attempt to misconstrue these words-my words-understand this: I love Carolina, yes, but I love my people and my community more."

In response to the letter, UNC chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz released the following statement promising to meet with leaders of the Carolina Black Caucus:

"It has always been my goal to build a community where everyone truly knows they belong and are valued for their own unique perspectives and experiences. I am deeply concerned that some members of the Carolina Black community do not feel they can thrive in this environment. I am meeting with the leaders of the Carolina Black Caucus next week to listen to their concerns and reaffirm my commitment to working as hard as I can to help create that sense of belonging."