Enrichment Education

After emergency meeting, controversial ‘1619 Project’ head wins tenured UNC job

Story at a glance

  • Nikole Hannah-Jones, a graduate of the University of North Carolina, won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for her work on “The 1619 Project.”
  • She was hired by UNC as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism in April, but not with tenure, which was granted to previous hires.
  • After backlash and a proposed lawsuit, the board of trustees reversed their decision and granted Hannah-Jones tenure.

In April, the University of North Carolina announced Nikole Hannah-Jones would join her alma mater as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism, calling her “one of the country’s leading voices in journalism” and “at the top of her field.” Despite the university’s stated commitment to long-term diversity, the board of trustees chose not to grant Hannah-Jones tenure, which previous appointees to the position were granted.  

The move received immediate pushback, including from the university’s own faculty, who demanded an explanation as well as tenure for Hannah-Jones. In an open letter, faculty called the decision “a concerning departure from UNC’s traditional process” and “especially disheartening,” because it occurred despite their support.  

“Why has the tenure case of Nikole Hannah-Jones galvanized so many of us to stand together? I believe it is because we are committed to the idea that this first public university was created to foster a society that would stand for values and progress. That the university was intended to prepare our state for new centuries and new challenges,” wrote Susan King, the dean of the UNC School of Media and Journalism, in an op-ed for the Daily Tar Heel


READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA

TV STARS CHIP AND JOANNA GAINES DONATE TO CAMPAIGN AGAINST CRITICAL RACE THEORY IN SCHOOLS

BIDEN STILL CONSIDERING CANCELLATION OF AS MUCH AS $50K PER PERSON IN STUDENT DEBT

US SECRETARY OF EDUCATION CANCELS $1B OF STUDENT LOAN DEBT

ACCORDING TO CDC, 96 PERCENT OF SCHOOLCHILDREN STILL UNSAFE FOR FULL-TIME, IN-PERSON LEARNING


After Hannah-Jones sent a letter to state lawmakers requesting the preservation of evidence, suggesting a potential lawsuit against the university, the board of trustees held an emergency meeting. Some supporters, including young Black students, gathered outside the closed-door session, but were “forcefully removed” by university police, according to one student. While the closed session was standard practice for personnel matters, Hannah-Jones and others noted that this had not been communicated with the public.


America is changing faster than ever! Add Changing America to your Facebook or Twitter feed to stay on top of the news.


Three hours later, the meeting returned to an open session and the board held a formal vote, approving Hannah-Jones’ tenure application in a 9-4 vote. 

“In [approving the tenure], this board reaffirms that the University puts its highest values first,” Trustee Gene Davis said, according to The Daily Tar Heel. The comment elicited laughs from demonstrators. 

Afterward, Hannah-Jones simply tweeted a picture of a glass in her hand. 


READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA

‘QUEER EYE’ CAST FACED ‘BLATANT’ HATE FILMING IN TEXAS

BURGER KING DECLARES WAR ON CHICK-FIL-A OVER LGBTQ+ RIGHTS AND CHICKEN SANDWICHES

TV STAR APOLOGIZES FOR BEING QUEEN OF ‘RACIST, SEXIST AND ELITIST’ ORGANIZATION’S PAGEANT

IN ‘GREATEST ART FIND IN 100 YEARS,’ MAN DISCOVERS LONG-LOST VAN GOGH MASTERPIECE

DWYANE WADE AND GABRIELLE UNION OPEN UP ABOUT RAISING A TRANS DAUGHTER