Memo reveals UNC plan to sideline 'diversity of thought' ahead of Nikole Hannah-Jones appointment

In a memo to the chancellor, Dean King wrote that the school should 'revisit 'diversity of viewpoint' in [its] definition of diversity.'

The memo also outlined the school's intent to use the Trans Journalists Association's style guide, which does not let writers use the term 'biological sex.'

A memo obtained by Campus Reform reveals that the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media considered “diversity of thought” to be in conflict with its efforts to achieve social justice objectives.

Hussman Dean Susan King wrote the August 1, 2020 memo to university Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz. She stated, “There is a fundamental conflict between efforts to promote racial equity and understandings of structural racism, and efforts to promote diversity of thought. These two things cannot sit side by side without coming into conflict.”

[RELATED: ‘Protect Nikole’: Emails reveal UNC dean asked ABC News for favorable Nikole Hannah-Jones coverage.]

King wrote the memo in anticipation of Nikole Hannah-Jones joining the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill faculty and teaching a class based on the “1619 Project.” 

”Hannah-Jones will teach a large class open to all students that centers around the 1619 Project. The class will advance all our values around diversity and the media and also offer students- inside and outside Hussman-a much deeper understanding of systemic racism and the impact of slavery on America,” King wrote. 

Despite an apparent willingness to deprioritize diversity of thought, the plan contains pages of recommendations aimed at advancing racial diversity according to a particular understanding of race and racism. 

At the time the memo was written, “it [was] possible for a Hussman student to graduate without taking a course focused on the question of diversity,” according to the dean. King wrote, “Faculty believe that is a problem.”

The Hussman School was already requiring its faculty to incorporate diversity into their class materials, but King write that this was not enough. “Although each class taught in the school must have a syllabus that reflects the value of diversity,” King writes. “Faculty see it as spotty and they worry a new course or courses focused only on diversity will weaken the need to accent racism, social justice, and cultural competency throughout the curriculum.”

To fix this problem, the memo determined that future students should be required to take a race-focused class in order to graduate. By fall 2022, school leaders planned to “develop a required core foundational course in cultural competency that includes a global perspective as well as race, ethnicity, and structural racism for all of our students.”

The memo also stated that the curriculum of a Newswriting course should “incorporate style guides from the Asian American Journalist Association, National Association of Black Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Native American Journalists Association National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association, and Transjournalist Association.” 

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The Trans Journalists Association’s style guide tells writers not to use the terms ‘biological sex,” “biological woman,” or “biological man,” because, in the guide’s own words, “these terms are inaccurate and often offensive.” It also tells writers to “avoid using the term ‘preferred pronouns,” because “someone’s pronouns are not a preference, but rather the only appropriate way to refer to that person.” 

In addition to incorporating new style guides into the curriculum, the Hussman School also planned to “incorporate a racial analytic throughout all of our courses beginning the Fall 2020 semester.”

UNC told Campus Reform in a statement that, “Following [a] retreat, the Chancellor asked deans to each send a memo answering three questions related to structural racism in their units and on campus.”

The statement also read, “Our school believes meaningful and productive public conversation depends on the inclusion of diverse perspectives. It is central to our mission. We stand by that ethic and our long tradition of welcoming diverse viewpoints into the school and debating issues with respect while being accountable to facts, accuracy and context.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AngelaLMorabito