The Pulse

UNC-Chapel Hill Journalism dean stepping down

By: - August 17, 2021 1:27 pm

Susan King, dean of the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media at UNC-Chapel Hill, will step down at the end of this year.

In a message to faculty Tuesday, King said she never intended to stay in the position for more than a decade. A search for her successor will be launched this week, King said.

Dean Susan King

King was at the center of the controversy over the hiring of acclaimed journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, who ultimately chose to go to Howard University after interference from the school’s namesake donor in her hiring process and a politically and racially fraught tenure fight that made national headlines.

Faculty have for months speculated about whether King would step down at the end of her current contract, which runs through the end of this year. Many have also expressed concern about who may replace King and whether the search may see the sort of political pressure and input from wealthy and influential alumni that characterized the Hannah-Jones controversy.

Read the portion of King’s update to faculty dealing with her plans to step down below.

Now that details have been finalized, I want to share with you my plans for the next year.

Since I first arrived at UNC I have maintained that I did not plan on staying as dean longer than a decade. The deans with whom I worked and admired during my time establishing the Carnegie-Knight Initiative led their schools for 10 years. Media – journalism, public relations and advertising – are in a state of great change. It is not the same world or business even as it was in 2012 when I arrived. I believe after 10 years a new dean will bring fresh eyes, additional perspective and new energy to our school.

So, this will be my last year as dean. I want the transition to be as smooth as possible, although I realize the pandemic and accreditation may challenge the idea of “smooth.” A search will be launched this week and I will remain in place until a successor is named.

I’ll take a leave – as is customary when a new dean steps in – so that he or she has the ability to shape the office unhindered. I plan to return as a tenured faculty member after a leave and to work with our spectacular students to “prepare them to ignite the public conversation.”

There are a number of important searches underway at the University, and I hope we will be able to bring new faculty colleagues into our school this year as well. Our student enrollment continues to grow, and we will need the faculty colleagues we have budgeted for to keep our curriculum full and our workload not overwhelming. In a word, it will be a year of change.

For me it has been a deep honor to work with faculty and staff who are so committed to students and to the high calling of our profession. This last year has been difficult on so many levels, and I find I admire you even more – individually and as a group. Our school culture kept us focused on engaging our students in the big and important issues of the day, our commitment to diversity in terms of thought, race, gender, identity, philosophy and other differences was deepened, and our belief that communication and free expression are at the heart of a multi-cultural democracy has been tested and is stronger. I am proud to say I am dean at this moment. We stand for important ideas, values and commitments, and I constantly hear from students that they know there is a difference in what they learn and experience in our school.

I hope everyone has a good first week of classes and that our super-warm August temperatures lower as does the threat of the variant.


Susan King
Dean, UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media

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Joe Killian
Joe Killian

Investigative Reporter Joe Killian's work examines government, politics and policy, with a special emphasis on higher education, LGBTQ issues and extremism.