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UNC Chapel Hill trustees set new power, pitch higher tuition

The Old Well on the UNC- Chapel Hill campus.
The Old Well on the UNC- Chapel Hill campus.

The board of trustees at North Carolina’s flagship university has given itself new power over highly paid faculty appointments in the aftermath of controversy over tenure for a Black journalism professor.

The change at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill puts the chancellor, not deans, in charge of hiring faculty to appointments of longer than three years that are paid $100,000 or more. The trustees' proposal was approved by UNC System President Peter Hans last week and by the full board at its meeting on Thursday, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported.

The trustees also proposed increases in student costs for tuition, housing and dining, which still need approval by the Board of Governors.

UNC Chapel Hill and its board of trustees gained notoriety over its treatment of investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, who was offered an endowed position, but without the security of lifetime tenure that her predecessors had been given. The terms prompted weeks of outcry from within and beyond the campus. Hannah-Jones ultimately reversed her decision to teach at UNC, and instead accepted a chaired professorship at Howard University, a historically Black school in Washington, D.C.

Starting in January, UNC-Chapel Hill's board will approve new hires for senior academic and administrative officers, as is done for deans and vice chancellors. The change gives board members more information about individual salaries, job descriptions and how those positions relate to the strategic plan heading into the budget process, board chairman Dave Boliek said.

Currently, deans of schools hire all fixed-term faculty members. Now, the higher-paid appointments would go to the chancellor and then be sub-delegated to the provost. All other faculty appointments will be sub-delegated directly to the deans. The rationale behind this change is to give the chancellor a better handle on those longer-term and highly paid faculty members, Boliek said. Authority to grant tenure to faculty members remains with the Board of Trustees.

The online site campusreform.org reported in May that Hannah-Jones was to make $180,000 to be the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism and Professor of the Practice at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media, based on documents the site said it obtained through a public records request. Her contract was to run through 2026, according to Campus Reform.

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