AAUP denounces the institutional racism of the UNC system and academic freedom


The old well on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus.


The national organization of college teachers has “strongly” criticized the UNC System Board of Governors and the UNC System Office for fostering what the group called a climate of institutional racism and for violating shared governance standards and academic freedom.

The board of directors of the American Association of University Teachers voted unanimously on Thursday to pass a joint resolution “strongly” condemning the university system after a recent report by the AAUP special committee. The lengthy report highlighted “alarming trends” at North Carolina universities, perpetuated by increased political pressure, according to AAUP.

The faculty group concluded that political interference had damaged the state’s public universities, citing campus issues including the selection of chancellors, decisions made during the COVID-19 pandemic and the tenure case of the black journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones at UNC-Chapel Hill.

“Longstanding political interference”

This censorship marks the next step in what could have lasting effects on faculty recruitment and retention.

“This resolution represents a remarkable step forward in recognizing and beginning to address systemic and institutional racism in the academy,” AAUP President Irene Mulvey said in a statement. “The Special Committee’s documentation of cases of broken governance, serious violations of academic freedom, and patterns of institutional racism caused by longstanding political interference and loose administrations from top to bottom speaks volumes about the seriousness of the problems. underpinnings within the UNC.”

While the inquiry, launched in September, was sparked by a national controversy over Hannah-Jones’ tenure, the professors say the issue reflects deeper governance and political issues across the UNC system.

“Relentlessly Dark Representation”

Several university leaders declined to comment on the report when it was released in April, but Kimberly van Noort, senior vice president for academic affairs at the UNC System, responded to it on behalf of the system in a letter shared with The N&O.

She called the report “discouraging” because it offers a “relentlessly bleak portrait of one of the strongest, most vibrant and most productive university systems in the country.”

Van Noort acknowledged their challenges and shortcomings, but argued that the report discounts their successes. She pointed to North Carolina’s “stable, bipartisan support for higher education” that has allowed universities to cut and freeze tuition, improve graduation rates, hire faculty, and get raises for employees.

The faculty called on university and system leaders to address the issues outlined in the report.

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Kate Murphy covers higher education for The News & Observer. Previously, she covered higher education for the Cincinnati Enquirer in the Investigative and Corporate Team and USA Today Network. Her work has won state awards in Ohio and Kentucky and she was recently named the Education Writers Association’s 2019 Finalist for Digital Storytelling.
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