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"Neutral Ground" Premiere - 2021 Tribeca Festival

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After fighting to become a tenured-track faculty member at UNC Chapel Hill, Nikole Hannah-Jones decided to decline their offer and accept a position at Howard University. With her new position, which is a tenured role, she will help establish the Center for Journalism and Democracy while she serves as the Knight chair in race and journalism. In an anonymous open letter on Medium, a Howard University faculty member warned Hannah-Jones, an Urban One Honors honoree, that the mecca isn’t all it is cracked up to be. During the read, they congratulated Hannah-Jones and saluted her for being the Black excellence that she is. The Howard lecturer also said that when she saw that Hannah Jones wanted to “go where you are valued, not where you are tolerated,” she sadly could relate.

“I am a member of a devalued and disrespected faculty at Howard,” they wrote. “The Administration’s leadership practices have soiled the bright and beautiful experiences in teaching that push me into my classes daily but have dimmed my formerly boundless, excited joy.”

In the letter, the faculty member outed Howard for trying to dismantle the Union of Professors they created three years ago for non-tenured professors and also not agreeing to any of the union’s requests.

“In three years, Howard has agreed to ZERO of the Union’s requests, offered a ‘best and final’ offer that included ZERO of the Union’s requests, and completely left the bargaining table, leaving little options for the Faculty beyond labor actions the campus will likely see this Fall,” they revealed.

They also highlighted other poor practices of the university that affect the non-tenured faculty, like having to re-apply for their job every year, not receiving a formal re-hire letter and not being able to teach at the university beyond seven year if you are on the non-tenure track. The most notable issue that was pointed out is the low salary the professors receive.

“Lecturers who hold doctorates from the most rigorous programs in the nation earn $48,000/yr at Howard, less than a first-year Kindergarten teacher in Washington DC Public Schools who holds on a bachelor’s degree and just graduated in May 2021.”

After shining light on the university’s shortcomings, the unidentified faculty member shared that they hoped that Hannah-Jones would join the non-tenured professors in their fight for fairness.

“As you begin your work on The Hilltop, we hope you will stand with us in insisting our Administration reach a fair and equitable contract with our Union of Professors and that they do so quickly to end a three-year long embarrassment.” they said. “And if it comes to it, as it appears that it will, we hope you will even join us in solidarity as it may be necessary to absent ourselves from the work until fairness and equity become part of the Administration’s agenda.”

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