The great cost of political interference at UNC.

The uproar over the recruitment of Nicole Hannah Jones at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is not just about board injustice. Deny The Pulitzer Prize-winning author has been in the Faculty of Journalism for life. It’s also about the long-term damage that Republican political interference is doing to the ability to attract and retain university faculty, UNC professor told me this week.

“The general mood of the last few years has certainly negatively impacted our ability to retain teachers, especially non-white teachers,” said UNC, an associate professor of racial history in the Southern United States. William Starkey said.

The very unusual move of the Board to reject teacher tenure decisions reflects Hannah Jones’s writings on the role of racism in American history, especially conservative opposition to her creations. 1619 project For The New York Times Magazine.

Since taking control of the General Assembly in 2011, Republican lawmakers have sought to impose political views on one of America’s leading public universities. The result is a repressive atmosphere in which many professors are wary of criticizing the board and state legislature for fear of losing money or restricting their jobs.

These tensions came to my mind Closure of 3 academic centers, New state law Prohibit removal The national embarrassment of denying ownership of the Confederate statue Silent Sam from the Chapel Hill campus, and of the black woman who has now won the highest honor of journalism and the MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Grant”.

Michael Gerhardt, a prominent law professor at UNC, said these incidents “had a big blow” to the university’s reputation. “We lost people to other colleges-and not for good reason,” he said.

Mimi Chapman, president of the faculty meeting, said faculty members felt they had lost the support of those who oversee the university. “It’s disappointing that there is yet another controversy and another feeling of not being listened to at the trustee level,” she said.

Republican-led legislative interference Became common At public universities as national politics becomes polarized. However, the interference was particularly devastating at UNC. And it has long boasted that it is a well-known and enlightened institution in the South.

Jay Smith, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina, said: “Accumulation can take decades and can get messy in years or months. I think UNC is really on the move.”

The UNC challenge of attracting and retaining academic talent in a repressive political atmosphere is exacerbated by another consequence of Republican legislative leadership. Insufficient university funding.. Some UNC faculty have transferred to a much more expensive university.

Jennifer Ho, a professor of ethnology, left UNC in 2019 17 years later to get a job at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The switch has boosted her salary from $ 94,000 to $ 184,000, but what she appreciates most is her true sense of academic freedom.

“I’m happy with UC Boulder,” she said. “When you apply for an administrative job, you can build the career you want without worrying about your words being abused, and I can’t say the same about UNC. “

After serving as a UNC teacher for 30 years in July last year, UK emeritus professor John McGowan said the combination of lower wages and political interference has made teachers feel gloomy. “We have been hit so much in the last five years that teacher morale is really, really low,” he said.

But he remains optimistic about the ability of the oldest public university in the United States to survive the latest storms caused by those he called “Republican overlords.”

“We have been for a long time 225 years Now, “said McGowan. “We will last longer than these people.”

Burnett: 919-829-4512, nbarnett @