Statement to the Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
As faculty in the Department of Religious Studies, we are committed to Carolina’s mission:
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, serves North Carolina, the United States, and the world through teaching, research, and public service. We embrace an unwavering commitment to excellence as one of the world’s great research universities.
As trustees, you have been charged with fulfilling this mission and upholding this standard of excellence.
The failure to consider the tenure of Nikole Hannah-Jones harms the university’s reputation and its ability to attract and retain the best and brightest faculty to serve the people of this state. As a consequence, UNC Chapel Hill will not be able to maintain its excellence as one of the world’s great research universities. We call on you to fulfill your obligation as trustees and immediately vote upon the recommendation of this university to offer Hannah-Jones a tenured position as the Knight Chair in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media.
We are also concerned that your failure to act will negatively affect our students. The university’s mission statement explicitly values the diversity of our student body and our state:
Our mission is to serve as a center for research, scholarship, and creativity and to teach a diverse community of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students to become the next generation of leaders.
We embrace this challenge daily. Our students benefit when everyone is empowered to reach their potential and contribute to the common good. The perceived politicization of education undermines inclusion and limits our ability to fulfill this commitment to the people of North Carolina.
We endorse the Chair of the Faculty’s June 19th letter, which explains that faculty governance of the tenure process is essential to maintaining academic integrity. Academic freedom has been defined as having two principles: freedom from political or religious control, and shared governance of institutions. The faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill needs to know that the Board of Trustees agrees with these principles. Anything less than that will irreparably damage the confidence of the faculty in the ability of the Board of Trustees to safeguard the future of this university.
It is imperative that the Board of Trustees immediately confirm the Provost’s recommendation to offer Hannah-Jones a tenured position.
The Chair of our department, Prof. Barbara Ambros, has also written an individual letter to the Board of Trustees, which can be viewed here.
Posted in News & Events on June 23, 2021
In the past few weeks, we held two events commemorating the end of the 2020-2021 academic year–a year that was obviously beset with unprecedented challenges but that also demonstrated the resilience and capability of our wonderful students.
On April 28th, we held our annual awards ceremony in which we celebrated the achievements of our undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty. Worthy of special note were Eden Teichman, who was acknowledged (again) for winning the Halperin-Schütz Undergraduate Essay Award, as well as both Eden Teichman and Robert Rhinehart, who were co-recipients of the Boyd Prize for outstanding achievement by a senior undergrduate major. Among our graduate students, Emily Branton received both the Peck Teaching Award (as recognized by the faculty) and the Peer Recognition Teaching Award. We also noted the many book publications of our faculty over the past two years.
May 14th was the date of our graduation ceremony. In addition to hearing a message from our department chair, Dr. Barbara Ambros, for our graduating seniors, we also acknowledged the names of our graduates, including those whose academic achievement earned them membership in the Theta Alpha Kappa Honor Society. The event concluded with an extended time for faculty and students to interact over conversation in smaller groups.
On Tuesday, April 13th, our department held its first ever Undergraduate Research Symposium, featuring presentations from six of our undergraduates: Olivia Giroux, Caleb Cooke, Jude Peppers, Robert Rhinehart, MaryBeth Thomas, and Eden Teichman. The goal of the symposium is to provide a setting to showcase the creative work of students in a welcoming and scholarly environment. By any measure, the symposium was a great success, demonstrating the wide scope of exciting research being done by our undergraduates.
The symposium concluded with the announcement of the annual Halperin-Schütz Essay Prize, which was awarded to Eden Teichman (one of our symposium presenters) for a paper titled “Am I One with God? How the Sufi Path According to al-Hujwiri and al-Qushayri Assesses a Sufi’s Ability to Become One with God,” written in an upper-level seminar with Prof. Carl Ernst. Congratulations, Eden!
Posted in Undergraduate Accomplishments on May 4, 2021
Prof. Waleed Ziad discussed the extraordinary life of the Afghan female Sufi saint Bibi Sahiba Kalan (d. 1803) in a recent episode of the What’s Her Name Podcast. Bibi Sahiba was recognized as a leading scholar-saint of the Afghan Empire, and her travels took her as far as Central Asia and the Arabian Peninsula. The What’s Her Name Podcast, on great women in history, is produced by Olivia Meikle and Katie Nelson, and two talented star musicians of Pakistan and Afghanistan, Zeb Bangash and Shamali Afghan, especially composed the original soundtrack for this episode. This is also the subject of Dr. Ziad’s next book, The Arch-Saint of the Afghan Empire, Her Teacher, and Her Son, based on fieldwork in 20 towns across Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The podcast, as well as photos relating to the episode, can be found here.
Prof. Jodi Magness was also featured in another episode of The Ancients podcast on the topic of “Jewish Burial at the Time of Jesus,” following upon her highly popular podcasts on the site of Masada. In this episode, Prof. Magness discusses ancient Jewish burial customs, the Talpiot Tomb controversy, and other topics that shed light on the depictions found in the Gospel accounts.
This latest episode can be found here.
Posted in Faculty News on April 21, 2021
A video introduction to RELI 141: African American Religions, offered this Summer Session II:Posted in News & Events on April 12, 2021
Check out this course video for RELI 236: Religious Things, being offered in Summer Session I!Posted in News & Events on March 4, 2021
Prof. Jodi Magness was recently featured on The Ancients, a podcast for ancient history fans. In the two-part podcast interview, Prof. Magness discusses the fascinating site of Masada, which was the topic of her recent book, Masada: From Jewish Revolt to Modern Myth (Princeton University Press, 2019), and where she also worked as co-director of the 1995 excavations of the Roman siege works.
For Part 1 of the interview (“Besieging Masada”), click here.
For Part 2 of the interview (“Myths of Masada”), click here.
For more about The Ancients podcast in general, click here.
Posted in Faculty News on February 22, 2021
Professor Evyatar Marienberg has just published his new book, Sting and Religion: The Catholic-Shaped Imagination of a Rock Icon (Cascade Press / Wipf and Stock, 2021). From the publisher’s website description of the book:
On the back cover of one of his most groundbreaking solo albums, . . . Nothing like the Sun of 1987, Sting (Gordon Matthew Sumner, b. 1951 in Wallsend, UK) somberly stands close to a statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The album was released a few months after his own mother, Audrey, died. The picture was taken on the island of Montserrat, where he was recording the album, apparently on the day of her death. “I said goodbye to my mother, as I had a recording date in Montserrat, and she died a week later.” When asked by the author if his mother was particularly connected to Mary, and if this was why he chose this image, he replied “No, but I did.” This evocative photograph and Sting’s quick answer encapsulate the two pillars of this book: a microhistory of a specific British Catholic parish in the 1950s-60s, and the impact that growing up there had on Sting’s artistic output. And beyond that, this book opens a window onto the influence of Catholic education and imagination on millions of less famous people who had similar upbringings.
A discount voucher for purchasing the book, as well as much more information on the work, can be found on the book’s website: http://www.stingandreligion.comFaculty Publications on January 27, 2021