July 8, 2021/Media, Press

Nikole Hannah-Jones, Like North Carolina Students, Was Failed By North Carolina Republicans’ Scheme To Politicize Education

This week when Nikole Hannah-Jones decided not to accept her delayed tenure position at UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina students once again fell victim to what has become a conservative takeover of our state’s academic institutions. These students will no longer have the opportunity to learn from this Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and UNC-Chapel Hill alumna. 

However, as Hannah-Jones acknowledged in her statement, there were deeply rooted issues predating her tenure. She – like others before her – suggested remedies to what has become a GOP dominated and easily-influenced board, including solutions that would “ensure the Board of Trustees reflects the actual population of the school and the state, or to ensure that the university leadership lives up to the promises it made to reckon with its legacy of racism and injustice.” 

What was House Speaker Tim Moore’s response to such reforms? There’s “no appetite” for changing how those members are appointed.

“Representative Moore is clearly out of touch if he believes there is ‘no appetite for changing the appointment structure.’ Students, faculty, and some North Carolina Republicans have made it clear that they are starving for change,” said NCDP Chair Bobbie Richardson. “In addition, if Senator Berger really believed that the legislature has ‘no role’ in faculty hiring decisions then he should be willing to surrender his ability to appoint the trustees that oversee these crucial decisions. Senate Bill 546, a bipartisan piece of legislation, is an important first step in rebuilding the trust that has been broken, but it’s painfully clear that it alone won’t be enough to repair the damage.”

It’s disappointing but unsurprising that Rep. Moore and Sen. Berger have little desire to change the makeup of the largely white, male, Republican Board of Trustees who are appointed by a Republican legislature and a Board of Governors whose members donated more than $2 million to Republican-leaning entities. The governor and legislature used to both make Board of Trustee appointments. However, after Roy Cooper beat Pat McCrory in 2016, lawmakers rushed at the last minute to give all the power to themselves – despite faculty objections