Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones turned down a position at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill despite being awarded tenure amid controversy over political pressure from the school’s top donors, The Washington Post reports.
Hannah-Jones, a New York Times journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize for her work on the 1619 Project, was initially offered a position as a Knight chair in race and investigative journalism at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media. But unlike previous faculty members who held the position, she did not get tenure amid reported pressure from UNC donor Walter Hussman Jr., after whom the school is named.
After nationwide media attention and outcry, the university’s board of trustees voted last week to award her tenure with the backing of the faculty.
"These last weeks have been very challenging and difficult and I need to take some time to process all that has occurred and determine what is the best way forward," Hannah-Jones said in a statement after the vote.
Hannah-Jones told CBS News on Tuesday that she decided not to join the UNC faculty.
“Very difficult decision,” she said. “Not a decision I wanted to make.”
“It’s not my job to heal the University of North Carolina,” she added. “That’s the job of the people in power who created the situation in the first place.”
Susan King, the dean of the journalism school who pushed for Hannah-Jones to get tenure, said she was disappointed in the decision.
“We wish her nothing but deep success and the hope that UNC can learn from this long tenure drama about how we must change as a community of scholars in order to grow as a campus that lives by its stated values of being a diverse and welcoming place for all,” she said.
“The appalling treatment of one of our nation’s most-decorated journalists by her own alma mater was humiliating, inappropriate, and unjust," more than 30 professors and others affiliated the journalism school said in a blog post. "We will be frank: It was racist.”
NHJ bringing Knight Chair to Howard:
Hannah-Jones will instead start a tenured new position of Knight Chair in race and journalism at the historically Black Howard University.
“I am so incredibly honored to be joining one of the most important and storied educational institutions in our country,” Hannah-Jones said in a statement. “One of my few regrets is that I did not attend Howard as an undergraduate, and so coming here to teach fulfills a dream I have long carried.”
Hannah-Jones will also found a Center for Journalism and Democracy at Howard to train journalism students to “accurately and urgently [cover] the challenges of our democracy with a clarity, skepticism, rigor and historical dexterity that is too often missing from today’s journalism.”
Award-winning author Ta-Nehisi Coates is also set to join the Howard faculty and teach a creative writing course.
“That really is the community that made me,” Coates said. “I would not be who I am without the faculty at Howard.”