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Education

UNC Chapel Hill Student Body President Calls For Trustee Vote On Nikole Hannah-Jones Tenure

Lamar Richards is the student body president of UNC Chapel Hill.
Lamar Richards is the student body president of UNC Chapel Hill.

The UNC Chapel Hill student body president is petitioning for a special meeting of the university's Board of Trustees to vote on tenure for journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones.

As student president, Lamar Richards is a member of the board. Wednesday night he explained to a group of student leaders that, under board rules, five other trustees would have to join his petition in order to call a meeting.

"That's the only way I see a special meeting being called, is if other colleagues on the board agree to join the petition process," Richards said. "Because our board chair has been given opportunity, ample opportunity to call one if he so chooses, and that doesn't look like it's going to happen."

Richards said he knows other trustees who are considering joining him. He encouraged the leaders of student organizations to write to the trustees to urge a vote before July 1.

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That's the date Nikole Hannah-Jones was set to begin her professorship at UNC's journalism school — a job she said this week she won't take without tenure. It's also the day that a new set of trustees begin their terms.

Student Leaders Describe Low Morale on Campus

Richards led a meeting of the Campus President's Council on Wednesday night attended by officers of various student-led organizations.

He began by opening the floor for discussion on how students are feeling in the midst of ongoing headline news about the university and the recently announced departures of several prominent faculty of color.

"I know Black students are feeling like we're not valued and like staff that look like us aren't valued," said Teddy Vann, an officer in the Black Student Movement. "I've only had two Black professors in my entire time at UNC, and I'm about to be a junior."

Several students expressed concerns that UNC Chapel Hill's reputation has been tarnished and that the university will struggle to recruit and retain faculty going forward.

"The truth is, we're the ones who are going to pay for it," said Jasmine Orsini, an officer on the Carolina Union Activities Board.

Patrice McGloin, an officer with the Campus Y, said students have lost trust in administrators and in the academic integrity of the university.

"My disappointment in all of this is that not once yet to date has anyone from South Building or administration stopped to send an email to us or even ask students, 'How are you doing with all of this?'" Richards said

The student leaders pledged to rally support for a demonstration the Black Student Movement has planned on campus Friday to protest the treatment of Nikole Hannah-Jones.

Editor's Note: The Dean of UNC's Journalism School Susan King is a member of WUNC’s Board of Directors, which is appointed by the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees. WUNC maintains editorial independence in all news coverage, including stories involving UNC.
Copyright 2021 North Carolina Public Radio. To see more, visit North Carolina Public Radio.