A letter sent to Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and other administrators by the UNC-Chapel Hill chemistry department revealed that the inaction on renowned journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones‘s tenure application is already making it hard to recruit faculty.

The letter, signed by department chair Wei You and 36 faculty members within the department and marked June 1, quotes a letter from Professor Lisa Jones, a chemistry professor currently teaching at the University of Maryland. Jones, a leading researcher in structural proteomics, withdrew her candidacy to join the faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill after Hannah-Jones’s story was made public. 

“The news this week that Nikole Hannah-Jones was denied tenure was very disheartening,” Jones wrote to the faculty. “It does not seem in line with a school that says it is interested in diversity. Although I know this decision may not reflect the view of the school’s faculty, I will say that I cannot see myself accepting a position at a university where this decision stands. I appreciate all of the effort you have put into trying to recruit me but for me this is hard to overlook.”

The letter says the department spent the last two years trying to recruit Jones due to her world-renowned credentials. They point out that the Board of Trustees’ decision not to move on Hannah-Jones’s tenure is already having a chilling effect on the university, and added to the myriad voices in academia calling on the board to hold an emergency vote on her tenure application.

“Her letter, withdrawing her candidacy to join our faculty, is a reflection of what our nation’s minority scholars will be saying about the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as they search for job opportunities or consider if this University is still the right fit,” the letter reads. 

Hannah-Jones responded to the letter on Twitter, thanking Jones for her solidarity.

Earlier this week, Hannah-Jones sent a letter to UNC administrators, giving them until Friday to consider offering her tenure or face legal action. Since North Carolina open meetings laws require the Board of Trustees to give a 48-hour notice before a special or emergency meeting, it appears that the university will not meet that deadline and will allow itself to be sued instead.

UPDATE: While UNC media relations says they could not comment on personnel matters, spokesperson Joanne Peters Denny says the school is “dedicated to building a diverse learning environment with the highest caliber faculty and we remain committed to that mission.” 

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