(New York, NY) — The University of North Carolina Board of Governors has reportedly denied reappointment of UNC law professor Eric Muller to the UNC Press Board of Governors. Muller has served two five-year terms on the board, six of them as chairman, and was unanimously re-elected as chair this year. Muller has called the denial “unprecedented” and an act of retaliation by the board for his past commentary on the university’s controversial decisions regarding the Silent Sam statue, and other issues related to racial justice. The decision to not reappoint Muller comes amid unresolved issues at UNC-Chapel Hill relating to the postponement of offering tenure to journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones.

“This is another unusual incident where the motivations and judgements of UNC’s governing bodies are being rightfully called into question”, said Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education at PEN America. “The same principles of academic freedom that should protect Muller from retaliation for his teaching and scholarship must extend to his public commentary on UNC’s decisions, which are closely related to his field of academic expertise. The onus now falls on the Board of Governors to explain the rationale for this decision, to offer some legitimate reason for their decision based on Professor Muller’s execution of his academic duties. Otherwise observers will be left wondering whether the UNC system has forfeited its commitment to reasoned disagreement, open exchange, and academic freedom in favor of a system of political interference and ideological uniformity.”