UNC student body president pens letter of outrage over Nikole Hannah-Jones

Lamar Richards, UNC student body president, argues that the board of the university should have taken the matter up in a vote

Lamar Richards, the student body president of the University of North Carolina penned a letter of outrage to his colleagues, fellow members of the board of trustees of the university, over the university’s decision to deny tenure for Nikole Hannah-Jones opting instead to offer her a fixed 5-year appointment. 

“I write concerning the matter of Nikole Hannah-Jones’ employment with this University. For so long—too long— the students of Carolina have paid the price for a University that has continuously disregarded their trust, pushed aside their passions, and remained entrenched in scandal after scandal,” said Richards.

“The time has come to be vigilant, just, and equitable in our leadership and decision making, I say ‘our’ realizing that I have only just joined the Board, yet I take ownership and responsibility for every decision made here on out. And, most importantly, I take ownership for when I choose to remain silent and allow policy, procedure, and justice to be subsided.”

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Richards argued that the board of the university should have taken the matter up in a vote and that her application and candidacy should be considered in an open session to allow for transparency, harmony, and success at the university. 

“If she should decide not to come to this University as a result of not being considered for tenure, Kevin: I want you to know that you would have lost my faith in your ability to lead this University alongside the 30,000 students I represent,” Richards wrote, referring to Kevin Guskiewicz—Chancellor of the university. 

CHAPEL HILL, NC – AUGUST 18: Students walk through the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on August 18, 2020 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images)

He added that inaction from Guskiewicz, Bob Blouin, the school’s provost, and Richard Stevens, the board chair, would be grounds for a vote of “No Confidence,” for each of them. 

The sophomore is the student body president for the school year of 2021-2022 and is studying psychology and public policy at the University. In an interview for the UNC-Chapel Hill’s website, he said: “I do truly believe that our perspectives are the most important. … Student perspectives will continually recenter the University to where we need to be. I won’t say I’m an expert on student affairs and student perspective, but what I will say is that I’m an expert at knowing when a [University] decision lacks student perspective.”

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Educator and author Eve L. Ewing posted an Instagram video where she explained the tenure process, saying that Hannah-Jones was not technically “denied” tenure because the process requires a down-vote from members of their department.

She explained that Hannah-Jones was endorsed by journalism scholars at the University and upper leadership, but that ultimately the Board of Trustees was tasked to review the materials submitted on her behalf.

”This really went outside the bounds of any type of normal university governance or decorum in a way that is shocking and is so clearly and indisputably ideological because the person who is being discussed is a person who is decorated in every way that a person can be decorated in the field of journalism.”

“And so, there is no way to reconcile what has happened that is not this person did a project that we decided is contrary to the facts that we feel comfortable with acknowledging about this country and its racism, and therefore we are not putting it forward,” Ewing continued.

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