What A Difference: What Does Injustice and Disparity Look Like in Practice?by Daron Davis July 21, 2021
Fayetteville State, a Historically Black University (HBCU), gets a new Chancellor. Outrage ensues. What was the outrage about? Was the outrage legitimate? How long did the outrage last? Did it even matter? Is the outrage over? Let us look back at what happened.
The finalists of all the candidates were experienced educators with at least one exception. The exception had previously resigned from the UNC System’s Board of Governors. There was a process. The process is in writing. It is well-structured and it has the ultimate goal of finding the best person to be the new chancellor. Was this the outcome? No. Those who would make that assessment would be deceptive or grossly misinformed.
What was the outcome of the chancellor selection process? The least qualified candidate with no experience in education was selected. The new chancellor has no time in a classroom, nor has he been an administrator. This was the new chancellor’s first job ever besides being a Public-School Defunding lobbyist (School of Choice advocate), and the new chancellor has sat on two boards.
Sitting on a board as a governor or trustee is not educational experience. It would be laughable if anyone were to suggest either of these positions are either educational experience or a job.
How did this happen? Well, the republican led University of North Carolina System’s Board of Governors got their political appointment, hence the outrage. There were protests. There were petitions. The protests lasted for months. The petitions had thousands of signers. Did it matter? No. Nothing was done to rectify this injustice.
FSU got its unqualified and inexperienced candidate imposed upon it. Ultimately the university, that is the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and administrators, as well as the community suffer.
Now let us look at the same strong-arm tactics being employed at the flagship school. This school is University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) which is a Predominantly White Institution (PWI) that until 1955 prohibited Black Americans from attending and is not a HBCU. Again, Republicans stepped in to stop the vote of tenure for Nikole Hannah-Jones, a qualified Black professor, who had the unanimous support of the full professors at the journalism school. Outrage ensued.
Was the outrage legitimate? Yes. It is true that Nikole Hannah-Jones is controversial, but the controversy is contrived by Republicans. This was the first time in the school’s history that tenureship was denied for the coveted Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Reporting. Since the 1980s, every Knight Chair at UNC-CH has entered that position as a full professor with tenure.
Wow! The outrage was huge, it was significant, it was national, and it was impactful. The commercial broadcast and print media covered it. It was all over social media. There were students, faculty, and community that came to voice their outrage.
Did the outrage matter? Yes. UNC-CH reversed its unjustified, unprecedented and reactionary denial of tenure. There were many happy folks to see some justice when justice seems to be uncommon in our society at present. Hannah-Jones was going to be joining the tenured faculty of her alma mater.
Wait, not so fast. She declined their offer and has moved on. This loss hurts the entire State of North Carolina.
Now, it seems like the Republicans are preparing to go after the chancellor at UNC-CH. What would be the offense? The offense is supporting the Hannah-Jones’ tenureship. Again, outrage begins. This outcome has yet to be determined. But looking at the track record of the Republican Board of Governors (BOG), his days are certainly numbered. The BOG’s are used to getting their way.
What is the difference? One university is a HBCU while the other is a PWI. Another difference was the level of outrage. Folks stand up and come to the defense when UNC-CH is getting the short end of the stick. There was national attention. When FSU gets scraps in funding or for its leadership, some folks are outraged and stand up and speak out against the injustice. Sadly, there is no national attention.
Did the outcomes at these two universities lead to justice?
In the case of UNC-CH, yes and no. Yes, the injustice was reversed, but no, Hannah-Jones is gone. She left the state. She opted to go to Howard University, an HBCU. Hanna-Jones said in her statement on her decision to decline the tenure offer, “I won the battle for tenure. But I also get to decide what battles I continue to fight. And I have decided that instead of fighting to prove I belong at an institution…I am instead going to work in the legacy of a university not built by the enslaved but for those who once were.”
In the case of FSU, was an injustice reversed? Simply, no. The protests eventually withered away, the petitions ultimately were meaningless, and their Republican political appointee is still there to execute the will of the BOG.
One cannot assume to know why there is this obvious difference, but it cannot be denied. What else cannot be denied is the partisan manipulation of our public universities by the Republican led UNC System’s BOG.
I stand against all injustice as we all should. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” What aggravates me is the disparate outrage and the disparate outcome.
The fact that justice is attainable for the Predominantly White University and not the Historically Black University is an injustice. What are the reasons for this disparity? The reasons why are unimportant. I seek equity across the board. The only way that could happen is to do right by our state and reign in the BOG and ultimately to 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 ain’t over.”