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Just days after the formal downgrading of the accreditation of the journalism school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the chair of the campus’s Faculty Council said Hussman School of Journalism and Media faculty members and students are being punished for university leaders’ mistreatment and failed hiring of a high-profile appointee for a tenured teaching position.

“It wasn’t the journalism department that didn’t want to tenure Nikole Hannah-Jones,” Mimi Chapman, the council chair, said of the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist whose appointment for the job became a national story and a source of division on the campus last year. “That was a problem at the Board of Trustees level, which has been widely reported. The delay in the vote and the whole maneuvering behind the scenes is what produced this problem.”

The controversy surrounding Hannah-Jones, a Chapel Hill alumna, in the summer of 2021, and the diversity challenges at UNC Chapel Hill noted by the accreditation team when it visited the campus the following fall, were significant factors that led to the decision to downgrade the journalism school to provisional accreditation status, Peter Bhatia, president of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC) told The Charlotte Observer.

Chapman said she was not surprised about the decision, but she added, “The faculty and students bear the brunt for a situation that they didn’t create, and that’s a shame.”

The Observer reported that the ACEJMC made the decision on April 29 to downgrade the Hussman School after it failed to meet diversity and inclusion standards.

“It’s a really fine journalism school in so many ways, but clearly there are some issues here that need to be fixed,” Bhatia said.

The accreditation downgrade came on the same day that a report on the university system was released by the American Association of University Professors, which conducted a special investigation and criticized the Chapel Hill campus for deficiencies in diversity, leadership and governance. The UNC system is also wrestling with a sharp increase in faculty and staff turnover.

The UNC journalism school has been accredited since 1958, according to its website.