by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Jenna Robinson of the Martin Center asks why a national professors’ group is investigating UNC-Chapel Hill.
On September 29, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) announced that it is investigating what it calls “egregious violations of principles of academic governance and persistent structural racism in the University of North Carolina System.” To do so, it has launched a special committee and will release its findings in early 2022.
According to the AAUP’s press release, the investigation was prompted by the “widely publicized mishandling of the tenure case of New York Times writer Nikole Hannah-Jones.” But there has already been a significant—one might even say exhaustive—investigation of that incident. Local and national media outlets of all stripes have uncovered the relevant facts: policies that govern tenure and appointments at UNC, the timeline of events in Hannah-Jones’ tenure case, and emails from involved parties. A UNC employee even leaked a copy of Walter Hussman’s UNC donation agreement to the media. It’s unlikely that the AAUP will discover anything new.
Thus, the investigation will go far beyond the Hannah-Jones incident. According to AAUP’s press release, the report will also cover “the influence of the gerrymandered state legislature on the systemwide board of governors and campus boards of trustees” and “how the use of political pressure has obstructed meaningful faculty participation in the UNC system.” In short, the AAUP will be looking into all the things it doesn’t like about the UNC System: namely, its conservative Board of Governors and Board of Trustees, their statutory authority to oversee faculty appointments, and the Republican-controlled legislature that appointed them.
It’s a very thinly veiled attempt at intimidation in a power struggle between left-of-center faculty members and the governance structure that stops them from having completely free rein on campus.
To be sure, the AAUP represents the professional interests of its constituents—faculty—but it also represents their radical, and often illiberal, politics.