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Statement on Nikole Hannah-Jones

June 25, 2021

The faculty of the Department of Dramatic Art and the staff of PlayMakers Repertory Company expresses its grave concern over the decisions that led the BOT not to take action towards the granting of tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones and asks for an explanation for the unfathomable delay in reviewing the recommendation of faculty, external reviewers, and university leadership to grant Nikole Hannah-Jones tenure.

Like the School of Journalism, the Department of Dramatic Art engages in practice-based teaching and research.  We have consciously built a faculty of scholars and artists, teachers and practitioners.  To maintain the highest standards of artistic and academic excellence we frequently recruit faculty from the professional theatre. If a working journalist of the caliber of Nikole Hannah-Jones, a UNC alumna, with stellar qualifications cannot be considered for tenure how can we be confident that a working theatre artist with comparable qualifications in our field can join our faculty?

In addition, PlayMakers Repertory Company, embedded within the Department of Dramatic Art, seeks to engage nationally renowned artists to join our resident company in order to build on the breadth of our educational model and to sustain our reputation as one of the country’s leading regional theatres.  How can we be confident such artists would be willing to work with PlayMakers when UNC- CH seemingly does not respect and support an individual journalist or artist’s orientation towards their own work?

Both journalists and theatre makers tell stories.  Those stories can be both joyous and difficult, celebratory and critical, and an academic and artistic community such as ours must embrace divergent backgrounds in its pursuit of higher learning and its vision of the arts as a human endeavor in which mutual respect and collaboration are integral.  This is the context in which Nikole Hannah-Jones’ work gains its power and importance.

The faculty of the Department of Dramatic Art and the staff of PlayMakers Repertory Company requests an immediate review of the recommendation to grant Hannah-Jones tenure, and that the BOT re-affirm our university’s commitment to access, equity, diversity, and inclusion as articulated in Carolina Next, UNC-CH’s strategic plan, free of political interference.  To do so is to fulfill our obligation to the citizens of North Carolina by ensuring the highest standards of academic excellence are maintained at UNC-CH both now and in the future.


Jennifer Bayang, Assistant Costume Director

Vivienne Benesch, Professor of the Practice, Producing Artistic Director

Tracy Bersely, Assistant Professor, Co-Head Professional Actor Training Program, Movement Coach

Jan Chambers, Professor, Resident Designer

Jeffrey Blair Cornell, Teaching Professor and Associate Chair, Resident Actor

Shea Fitzgerald,  Assistant Director of Development

Julia Gibson, Associate Professor, Co-Head Professional Actor Training Program

Tia James, Assistant Professor, Resident Actor/Director/Vocal Coach

Jacqueline Lawton, Associate Professor, Dramaturg

Adam Maxfield, Teaching Associate Professor, Technical Director

Triffin Morris, Milly S. Barranger Professor of the Practice in Costume Production

David Navalinsky, Associate Professor, Director of Undergraduate Production

Bobbi Owen, Distinguished Professor

Laura Pates, Assistant Technical Director

Mark Perry, Teaching Assistant Professor, Dramaturg

Rachel Pollock, Teaching Assistant Professor, Cosutme Crafts Artisan

Michael Rolleri, Professor, Head of Technical Production Program, Production Manager

Gwendolyn Schwinke, Assistant Professor

Adam Versényi, Professor and Chair, Senior Dramaturg

Kathy Williams, Teaching Associate Professor, Company Artistic Associate

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