Dear Carolina Community:
Knowledge creation calls for space and security to look beyond established ideas toward newer thought, innovations and new discoveries. It requires the freedom to question and destabilize conventional wisdom before generating new common ground. This safe space of freedom is at the heart of the tenure process in institutions of higher education. It enables faculty to push conceptual boundaries and bring forward new ideas and understanding for the betterment of society, all of humanity and the inclusion of marginalized voices and communities. This space is threatened by recent (in)actions of the Board of Trustees.
We, the undersigned faculty of City and Regional Planning at UNC-Chapel Hill (College of Arts and Sciences), request that the Board of Trustees move ahead in granting tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones, honoring the recommendation put forward by faculty in the School of Journalism and through the established UNC Chapel Hill tenure review system that their recommendation reflects.
Planning as a discipline has deep and controversial debates, both in terms of how cities and communities are planned, by who and for whom. The theoretical underpinnings of planning that are used to guide and justify these actions are equally in ferment and remaking and interrogation. Faculty with tenure have challenged the conventions of planning for decades, moving us from a discipline that once destroyed and fractured communities of color through redlining and urban renewal to more vibrant, forward looking, accountable, community-led modes of planning today. Even these advances remain a work in progress. New work continues to shine a light on limitations that persist and need attention. This means the need for on-going research that continues to uncover and engage planning problems for the benefit and betterment of the field and our communities.
Tenure is a protective space that not only encourages new solutions but allows the reinterpretation of societal challenges and problems. It is also an enabling process that honors and rewards new thinking, inspiring a new generation of faculty to continue to move ideas forward. Furthermore, it is an evaluative process, but equally a collective learning process enabling generations of scholars to engage new ideas and imagine their role in the future of a discipline. We strongly advocate for processes that maintain the sanctity of this institution at UNC and elsewhere.
Andrew H. Whittemore
T. William Lester