AAUP@FHSU


New Report on Institutional Racism in the UNC System

Today the AAUP released a report of the Special Committee on Governance, Academic Freedom, and Institutional Racism in the University of North Carolina System. The report considers the influence of the North Carolina state legislature on the systemwide board of governors and campus boards of trustees. It discusses how political pressure and top-down leadership have obstructed meaningful faculty participation in the UNC system, jeopardized academic freedom, and reinforced institutional racism.

Read the full report here.

The special committee, for which we served as co-chairs, focused in-depth on UNC‒Chapel Hill as the flagship campus, but also examined events across the entire system. Through interviews with more than fifty individuals across the UNC system, the report details the pattern of political interference from the legislature and unilateral decision-making from university leadership that has increasingly come to affect the entire UNC system, with clear violations of AAUP-supported principles of academic governance set forth in the 1966 Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities.

You can also listen to a podcast discussion of the report here.

The report surveys the environment for governance and academic freedom in the UNC system against this backdrop of overtly partisan political control. It details how the intersection of broken governance, threats to academic freedom, and institutional racism affected campus-level matters, such as the closure of multiple academic centers run by faculty members who had been vocal critics of state leadership; the barring of centers from conducting litigation, which particularly affected the UNC‒Chapel Hill School of Law Center for Civil Rights; the controversial deal regarding “Silent Sam,” a Confederate monument; and the 2021 failed appointment of Nikole Hannah-Jones to an endowed chair in the School of Journalism and Media.

The report also details long-standing patterns of institutional racism that make the UNC system a particularly hostile environment for faculty, staff, and students of color. In examining the structural and cultural elements of racism within the UNC system, the report points to the racial climate; institutional inequities as manifested in the racial composition of the administration and faculty; the distribution of power, authority, and resources within the system; and retention of faculty and staff of color.

The special committee concluded that UNC needs strong and independent leadership that respects faculty expertise and observes widely accepted principles of academic governance, that defends academic inquiry from political pressures and constraints, and that is willing to do more than simply pay lip service to the idea of equity. The report emphasizes that the system- and campus-level governing boards not only need to fulfill their “special obligation to ensure that the history of the college or university shall serve as a prelude and inspiration to the future,” as described in the Statement on Government, but also “must ensure that the history of UNC inspires and serves as a prelude to a future that looks very different from its past and its present.”

To read the full report, visit the AAUP website.

Nicholas Fleisher, professor of Linguistics at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Afshan Jafar, professor of Sociology at Connecticut College
Co-chairs of the special committee


AAUP President Condemns HBCU Bomb Threats

Bomb threats frighten people, intimidate communities, and disrupt daily life with the threat of violence. When a bomb threat is made at one of our historically Black colleges and universities, it becomes the latest entry in a long and shameful history of incidents of violence and racial terror that have resulted in the systemic and persistent racial inequity we see in US society today. The AAUP condemns the racial terrorism perpetuated by the numerous bomb threats at over a dozen HBCUs in the last several weeks.

Fear and intimidation have no place on a college campus, and this is especially true when it comes to our faculty colleagues and the students, administration, and staff at America’s HBCUs. We are inspired by their resilience but acknowledge the heavy burden that comes with being targeted routinely because of your race. The AAUP will continue to work towards dismantling systemic and institutional racism in our own organization and in higher education. We stand in solidarity with our HBCU colleagues in demanding and working toward a more just society, and in celebrating Black excellence all year long.

You can find this statement on the AAUP website here.

In solidarity,
Irene Mulvey, AAUP President


Statement on Protests in Response to the Murder of George Floyd

The murder of George Floyd by four police officers in Minneapolis has unleashed a massive protest movement across the country. These protests, led by young people, are revealing years of pent-up frustration with racism and inequality. The militarization of policing in the United States and the unchecked violence perpetrated against communities of color by police who continue to act with seeming impunity, along with the promotion of white supremacy by the Trump administration, had created a combustible mix even before the COVID-19 pandemic added to an existing medical crisis and economic desperation, especially in marginalized communities of color.

Many have said that we need to have a conversation about racism and inequality. But a conversation is not enough. What we need is bold action to deal with institutional racism and inequality. While the lack of meaningful preparation for the pandemic has disrupted the lives of all Americans, the more long-standing lack of a meaningful response to endemic racism and inequality has compounded the impact of the pandemic on communities of color.

Clearly, looting and the destruction of property need to be condemned. But we also need to condemn the fact that only one of the four police officers involved in the murder of George Floyd has been arrested and recognize that Floyd’s death is just one more example of the senseless loss of an African American life at the hands of police. The actions of police across the country are enabled by political leaders who have failed to deal with institutional racism and inequality, and they also must be held accountable.

The AAUP supports the right of all citizens to engage in peaceful protests and calls for an end to police violence against protesters. We also recognize that our institutions of higher education have been part of the problem, but they can be part of the solution by marshaling the expertise of faculty and the energy of students in developing meaningful approaches to mitigating racism and inequality in our society.