UNC Journalism School Downgraded to Provisional Accreditation in the Wake of DEI Concerns

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Carroll Hall, home to the Hussman School of Journalism at the University of North Carolina.
Carroll Hall, home to the Hussman School of Journalism at the University of North Carolina. Photo by Wikipedia user Mihaly I. Lukacs, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC) recently voted to downgrade the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media to “provisional accreditation” status, according to an email written by Interim Dean Heidi Hennink-Kaminski to school faculty. 

The change is due to the ACEJMC’s concerns regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at the school, especially in the wake of journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones turning down a tenured position because of administrative controversy surrounding her hiring. In 2021, Hannah-Jones was hired as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism but was originally only offered a five-year contract instead of tenure by the UNC Board of Trustees. Despite later receiving a tenure offer, Hannah-Jones decided to take the same position at Howard University instead. The ACEJMC determined that this high-profile incident was evidence of significant DEI issues within the school that warranted reevaluation of its accreditation. 

“[T]he UNC Hussman School is dealing with an existential crisis both internally and externally,” the ACEJMC wrote. “The [Hannah-Jones] controversy… exposed long-standing problems. Many stem from inconsistencies in executing the goals in the 2016 Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan.”

Aside from the Hannah-Jones incident, the accreditation organization found that many of the school’s DEI commitments were superficial, morale among faculty of color was generally low, and students were complaining about a lack of diversity and the use of “culturally insensitive” classroom examples. The Hussman School will maintain its provisional status for two years and then have an opportunity to restore full accreditation.