Twenty-one members of the UNC Black Pioneers – an organization of black alumni who graduated between 1952 and 1972 – issued a statement Wednesday calling on the board to take action to grant Nikole Hannah-Jones a permanent position at the university.

Black pioneer James Cofield said the organization was created to help black alumni in those years share their unique experiences and lend their voice on important issues in the wider community.

“The undersigned members of the UNC Black Pioneers fully support the joint statement of support for the tenure of Nikole Hannah-Jones issued by the Carolina Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists at UNC,” the statement read. .

In their statement, the CABJ and the NAHJ wrote that the two previous Knight Chairs at UNC arrived with tenure, and Hannah-Jones would be the first not to receive the same treatment – despite overwhelming support from the faculty. by Hussman.

“After anti-Black violence and state-sanctioned police brutality in the summer of 2020, the University is committed to prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion through the through emails and various committees, ”the statement said.

But when members of the black community called for action on Hannah-Jones’ tenure, the CABJ and NAHJ said the UNC had broken those promises.

“Black journalism students are greeted by university leaders who tell them, telling us that our education comes second to state policy,” the statement said. “That the diversity of personnel that we have so ardently craved is unimportant and that the thought, intellect, work and work of black people are of no value.”

Cofield said it would be a terrible mistake if the University were to see its financial interests interfere with the University’s operations, and asked for clarification regarding Walter Hussman’s statement.

Edith Hubbard, a black pioneer and the second black woman to graduate from UNC, said she was worried, hurt and irritated by the Council’s inaction. She said she didn’t understand why the previous two Knight Chairs got permanent positions and Hannah-Jones didn’t.

“Why all of a sudden isn’t that part of the package when it’s a black woman?” ” she said.

Hubbard said that the fact that the other two Knight Chairs are white highlights a larger issue with racial disparities in income and accessibility to the system.

She said she was comforted to see the faculty and students rallying around Hannah-Jones.

Coefield said he believed Hannah-Jones was “eminently qualified” for a permanent position and called on the University to address issues of fairness and equity without reservation.

“The purpose of the University is to serve all students and the entire University community,” he said. “And not to do so is a failure on the part of the University.”

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