1619 Project Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones Denied Tenure After College Faces Conservative Criticism

New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her work on the 1619 Project, was denied tenure at UNC-Chapel Hill after the school faced conservative backlash over her hiring, according to NC Policy Watch.

UNC-Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media pursued Hannah-Jones for its tenured Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism position, which is intended to bring influential journalists to the classroom.

But after “pressure from conservatives” over her work on the 1619 Project, which tracked the history of slavery and racism in the United States, Hannah-Jones was denied tenure and offered a five-year contract as a professor instead. The contract would allow her to be reviewed for tenure after the five years.

Faculty supported hire:

According to the report, Hannah-Jones went through a “rigorous tenure process” last year and sent a package that Susan King, the dean of the journalism school, said was “as well reviewed” as any she had ever seen.

Hannah-Jones had “enthusiastic support from faculty and the tenure committee, with the process going smoothly every step of the way” until the decision went to the college’s Board of Trustees, which reviews tenure applications.

The board did not approve Hannah-Jones’ tenure despite UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz standing up for the hire before the board.

What happened?

Not all Knight Chair professors are tenured but all those at UNC since 1980 have been.

“It’s disappointing, it’s not what we wanted and I am afraid it will have a chilling effect,” King told the outlet. “I’m not sure why and I’m not sure if that’s ever happened before.”

A Board of Trustees member told the outlet that the five-year contract was a “work-around.”

“It’s maybe not a solution that is going to please everyone. Maybe it won’t please anyone. But if this was going to happen, this was the way to get it done,” the unidentified board member said.

Asked why Hannah-Jones was denied, the board member said, “politics.”

“This is a very political thing,” the trustee said. “The university and the board of trustees and the Board of Governors and the legislature have all been getting pressure since this thing was first announced last month. There have been people writing letters and making calls, for and against. But I will leave it to you which is carrying more weight.”


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