Nikole Hannah-Jones won't join UNC faculty without tenure, lawyers say

Nikole Hannah-Jones won't join UNC faculty without tenure, lawyers say
© Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones will not join the faculty of the University of North Carolina if she is not granted tenure, her lawyers told the school this week. 

Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and writer, agreed earlier this year to teach at the school's Hussman School of Journalism and Media as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism. 

But her application for tenure was terminated last month after the university said it had found she did not come from a “traditional academic-type background.”

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That decision was met with widespread backlash and condemnation. 

"I have been overwhelmed by all the support you all have shown me," Hannah-Jones said in a message to her supporters at the time. "It has truly fortified my spirit and my resolve. You all know that I will OK. But this fight is bigger than me, and I will try my best not to let you down."

In a letter sent to the school dated Monday, Hannah-Jones's lawyers said she will not teach at the school as agreed to if she is not granted tenure and referenced a “powerful donor” whose influence “contributed to the Board of Trustees’ failure to consider her tenure application.”

“In light of this information, Ms. Hannah-Jones cannot trust that the university would consider her tenure application in good faith during the period of the fixed-term contract,” the letter reads, according to The New York Times. 

Hannah-Jones, a correspondent at the New York Times Magazine, was the driving force behind The 1619 Project, an investigative series that aims to reframe American history through the context of slavery and systemic racism. 

The project has been decried by conservatives across the country, as was Hannah-Jones's reported hiring by UNC. 

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The Times reported the "powerful donor" Hannah-Jones's lawyers referenced is Walter E. Hussman Jr., a newspaper publisher for whom the university's journalism school is named. 

Hussman reportedly raised concerns to university leaders about Hannah-Jones's involvement with The 1619 Project when her hiring was announced. 

“I really wanted to make them more knowledgeable about the 1619 Project,” he told the Times. “And I thought, I’m now a lot more knowledgeable about it, having read it — not cursory but carefully.”

Hannah-Jones's lawyers wrote she has not withdrawn her application for tenure and has considered filing a discrimination suit against the university.