The student body president of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill blasted the school for failing minorities and urged prospective students from those backgrounds to “look elsewhere” after officials denied tenure to investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of the controversial 1619 Project.
In an op-ed published on the UNC student government website, titled “Brace for Reckoning,” Lamar Richards wrote that the school continues to “tokenize and exploit” students of color and has “continually fallen short” in its efforts to “reform” and serve all students.
“You cannot reform a system rooted in oppression, racism, and hatred,” Richards wrote. “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.”
Richards called the Hannah-Jones controversy “the most recent glaring example” of UNC failing to do what is necessary to enact change for students and faculty, and questioned whether it will serve as a wake-up call for the school.
“Maybe this event will spur the reckoning our university has needed for far too long. Why should we move forward under the guise of mere ‘reform’?” Richards wrote.
Hannah-Jones is a UNC alum and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. In April, the university offered her a position as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism, a reportedly tenured position.
UNC’s journalism school dean Susan King said Hannah-Jones was recommended for tenure following an extensive application process, WTVD reported. However, the school’s Board of Trustees refused to vote on Hannah-Jones’ tenure in what is being cast as a political move.
Hannah-Jones is also the lead writer of the 1619 Project, a New York Times endeavor that “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the United States’ national narrative.”
The project has been met with its share of criticism from Republicans and others who have raised concerns with some of its claims, namely that slavery was a primary reason why colonists fought the American Revolution.
Richards invited students, staff and academics from historically marginalized backgrounds who may be considering UNC to “look elsewhere” and “seek other options.”
“The sincerest thing I can share with each of you is that Carolina is not prepared,” Richards wrote in the open letter. “Carolina is not prepared for the ‘reckoning’ of which it continues to speak and it is certainly not prepared to face the reality of having to undo the entire system upon which it was built—and rebuild.”
In response to Richard’s letter, UNC chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz released a statement obtained by WTVD in which he promised to meet with leaders of the Carolina Black Caucus this week.
Fox News’ Sam Dorman and Michael Ruiz contributed to this report.