Vice Provost for University Libraries and University Librarian Elaine L. Westbrooks sent the following message to University Libraries staff.
Like many of you, I followed the news about the treatment of Nikole Hannah-Jones with dismay. Although this issue is largely resolved, its causes remain, and I am no less appalled. I will always speak out about injustice, especially when it touches our work and our community.
Nikole Hannah-Jones would have been an outstanding teacher and an excellent colleague. Her expertise and perspective would have enriched our campus. If you have not read Ms. Hannah-Jones’s statement about her experience with Carolina, I encourage you to do so.
I am also deeply concerned about the subjugation of academic freedom and faculty governance that this episode reveals. When racism fuels the exercise of political power to stifle inquiry and academic freedom, we should all be concerned, and libraries especially so. As library workers, we are professionally committed to the open exchange of ideas and to the mission of academia to ask uncomfortable questions, train critical thinkers, and serve as a platform for growth and discovery. These efforts are our own.
In the wake of such a tumultuous and disheartening process, my commitment to building a just organization has never been stronger. I have always said that the work of Reckoning is fundamental to realizing our potential as a library, as an employer, and as a cornerstone of the UNC-Chapel Hill community. We certainly cannot stop now when there is clearly such a long way to go.
Elaine L. Westbrooks
Vice Provost for University Libraries & University Librarian
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill