What do injustice and disparity look like in practice?
Fayetteville State, a historically black university (HBCU), has a new chancellor. Indignation ensues. What was the outrage? Was the indignation legitimate? How long did the outrage last? Did it matter? Is the outrage over? Let’s look back at what happened.
The finalists of all applicants were experienced educators with at least one exception. The exception had previously resigned from the Board of Governors of the UNC system. There was a process. The process is written. It is well structured and has the ultimate goal of finding the best person to be the new chancellor.
Was this the result? No. Those who make this assessment would be misleading or grossly misinformed.
What was the outcome of the Chancellor’s selection process? The least qualified candidate with no previous education experience was selected. The new chancellor does not have time to go to a classroom and has not been an administrator. This was the new chancellor’s first job besides being a lobbyist for public school funding (i.e. an advocate for the school of choice), and the new chancellor has served on two boards administration.
Sitting on a board as governor or administrator is not an educational experience. It would be laughable if anyone suggested that either of these positions be an educational experience or a job.
How did it happen? Well, the board of governors of the Republican-led system at the University of North Carolina got his political nomination, hence the outrage. There were protests. There have been petitions. The protests lasted for months. The petitions had thousands of signatories. Did it matter? No. Nothing has been done to right this injustice.
FSU was imposed on its unskilled and inexperienced candidate. Ultimately, the university, i.e. students, faculty, staff, alumni and administrators, as well as the community suffer.
Now let’s take a look at the same muscular tactics used in the flagship school of the UNC system. That school is the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) which is a predominantly white institution (PWI) which until 1955 prohibited black Americans from attending and is not an HBCU.
Once again, Republicans stepped in to stop the tenure vote of Nikole Hannah-Jones, a qualified black professor, who had the unanimous support of tenured professors at the school of journalism. Indignation ensued.
Was the indignation legitimate? Yes. It is true that Nikole Hannah-Jones is controversial, but the controversy is orchestrated by Republicans. It was the first time in the school’s history that tenure was turned down for the coveted Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Reporting. Since the 1980s, every Knight Chair at UNC-CH has stepped up to this post as Full Professor.
Wow! The outrage was huge, it was important, it was national and it had an impact. Audiovisual and commercial print media covered it. It was all over social media. Students, teachers and members of the community came to express their outrage.
Did the outrage matter? Yes. The UNC-CH overturned its unjustified, unprecedented and reactionary denial of tenure. There were a lot of people happy to see some justice when justice seems to be scarce in our society today. Hannah-Jones was going to join the titular faculty of her alma mater.
Wait, not so fast. She declined their offer and moved on. This loss hurts the entire state of North Carolina.
Now it looks like Republicans are gearing up to take on the chancellor of UNC-CH. What would the offense be? The offense supports Hannah-Jones’ tenure-ship. Once again, the outrage begins. This result remains to be determined. But looking at Republican BOG’s track record, his days are certainly numbered. BOGs are used to doing whatever they want.
What is the difference? One university is an HBCU while the other is a PWI. Another difference was the level of outrage. People get up and come to the defense when UNC-CH gets the short end of the stick.
There was national attention. When FSU gets funding crumbs or for its leadership, some people get outraged and stand up and speak out against injustice. Unfortunately, there is no national attention.
Did the results of these two universities lead to justice?
In the case of UNC-CH, yes and no. Yes, the injustice has been reversed, but no, Hannah-Jones is gone. She left the state. She chose to go to Howard University, an HBCU. Hannah-Jones said in her statement on her decision to decline the tenure offer: “I won the tenure battle. But I can also decide which battles I continue to fight. And I decided that instead of fighting to prove that I belong to an institution… I will instead work in the legacy of a university not built by slaves but for those who once were. “
In the case of FSU, has an injustice been reversed? Simply, no. The protests finally disappeared, the petitions ultimately made no sense, and their Republican political representative is still there to carry out the will of the BOG.
One cannot assume to know why there is this obvious difference but one cannot deny it. What else cannot be denied is the partisan manipulation of our public universities by the BOG of the Republican-led UNC system.
I stand against any injustice as we all should. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. What irritates me is the disparate outrage and the disparate outcome.
The fact that justice is available at the predominantly white university and not at the historically black university is an injustice. What are the reasons for this disparity? The reasons are irrelevant. I seek equity at all levels. The only way that could happen is to do good through our state and rule in the BOG and ultimately excise this will to dominate, exploit and subvert.
Is the outrage over at FSU? To quote a good friend and ally of mine: “No! It is not finished.
Daron Davis is a graduate of Fayetteville State University, class of 2014. He can be contacted at [email protected]
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