The University of North Carolina’s decision to initially deny Nikole Hannah-Jones tenure, reverberated in an instant rebuke from the school’s Black students and faculty, who waged their collective voices against the establishment in order to evoke change.
While Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and former alumnae of UNC will instead begin a tenured venture at Howard University, she thanked her extended family of Black students and faculty who aided her in a fight that will serve as a watershed moment in higher education where Black students and intellectuals are often tolerated and overlooked.
On Wednesday a coalition group comprised of the UNC Black Student Movement, the Carolina Black Caucus, and the Black Graduate and Professional Student Association pressed on in their years-long fight to create a more equitable campus for Black and minority students by presenting the university with a list of demands during a news conference.
“We’re here today, not in celebration of Nikole Hannah-Jones being awarded tenure, but instead standing here to acknowledge that tenure was the bare minimum,” said Julia Clark, vice president of the UNC Black Student Movement, according to WUNC.
Action items include “text message alerts to warn when white supremacist activists are on campus,” an increase in hiring Black counselors and Black staff in the Title IX office and the Carolina Women’s Center, “a metric-driven recruitment strategy for Black faculty, equity scorecards publicly available for each university department, a permanent memorial for James Cates, Jr., a young Black man who was stabbed to death on campus by a white motorcycle gang in 1970, restoration and signage for the Unsung Founders Memorial honoring Black people who helped build the campus, and that grade appeal information is included on syllabi.”
“These are actionable items,” UNC Black Student Movement president Taliajah Vann said. “We are holding the university’s feet to the fire.”
A large focus of the meeting centered on concerns around campus public safety. The UNC’s Black Student Movement group released a lengthy statement calling on university officials to revoke the promotion of Rasheem Holland as UNC Police Chief, calling his appointment a “clear and present threat to the safety of Black students.”
The Black Student Movement claims Holland assaulted “multiple Black students who were non-violently exercising their right to protest,” during a demonstration in response to Hannah-Jones’ tenure debate last month.
“There cannot be a racial reckoning or an effort to improve the climate of our campus for Black students if those who blatantly disregard the safety of Black students, Rasheem Holland, are rewarded for abusing their power. Black students are in danger of facing more violent and unjust assaults from campus police if this abominable decision is not corrected, and we will continue to fight for Rasheem Holland’s removal from our campus,” the statement concludes.
“Our demands of this university are designed to protect the Black community at UNC as well as to end the systemic oppression and exploitation of our community,” said Julia Clark, Vice President of the UNC Black Student Movement.