A Howard University professor has written an anonymous letter to Nikole Hannah-Jones warning her that working at the HBCU isn’t the dream she may think it is.
The letter, posted on Medium, congratulated Hannah-Jones on the job but added that when she saw Hannah-Jones say that she wanted to “go somewhere you are valued, not where you are tolerated,” she could relate.
“I am a member of a devalued and disrespected faculty at Howard,” the professor wrote. “The Administration’s leadership practices have soiled the bright and beautiful experiences in teaching that push me into my classes daily but have dimmed my formerly boundless, excited joy.”
The anonymous professor also told Hannah-Jones how Howard University tried to dismantle the Union of Professors created three years ago for non-tenured professors and how the school disagreed with all of the union’s requests.
“In three years, Howard has agreed to ZERO of the Union’s requests, offered a ‘best and final’ offer that included ZERO of the Union’s requests, and completely left the bargaining table, leaving little options for the Faculty beyond labor actions the campus will likely see this Fall,” they revealed.
The letter goes on to point out some of the University’s practices for non-tenured professors to Hannah-Jones. Including that they have to re-apply for their jobs after the seven-year cutoff for teaching at Howard if a professor is not on a tenured track. The letter also pointed out the low salary for professors.
“Lecturers who hold doctorates from the most rigorous programs in the nation earn $48,000/yr at Howard,” the letter states. “Less than a first-year Kindergarten teacher in Washington DC Public Schools who holds only a bachelor’s degree and just graduated in May 2021.”
While the letter points to some issues of teaching at an HBCU, Dr. Greg Carr, an associate professor of Afro-American Studies at Howard, discussed Hannah-Jones picking Howard over the University of North Carolina with Marc Lamont Hill and said that teaching at an HBCU is more than about money, it’s a calling.
“Black people tend to look at HBCUs as a rung on the ladder to success to create generational wealth and collective advancement,” Carr told Hill. “That means that teaching at HBCUs becomes a calling as much as it is an academic exercise and a lot of that gets pushed aside when one or two people whose names we know come into a Black space.”
The anonymous professor concluded the letter saying they hope Hannah-Jones joins non-tenured professors at Howard in their fight for fairness.
“As you begin your work on The Hilltop, we hope you will stand with us in insisting our Administration reach a fair and equitable contract with our Union of Professors and that they do so quickly to end a three-year-long embarrassment,” they said. “And if it comes to it, as it appears that it will, we hope you will even join us in solidarity as it may be necessary to absent ourselves from the work until fairness and equity become part of the Administration’s agenda.”