State Watch

Nikole Hannah-Jones, UNC reach settlement over tenure controversy

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of The New York Times’s 1619 Project, has reached a settlement with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) following controversy over her tenure status.

UNC confirmed in a statement to The Hill that the settlement resolves a legal dispute that arose after she was denied tenure last year for not coming from a “traditional academic-type background.”

Following the tenure decision, reports surfaced that conservative groups had allegedly pushed back on her hiring at UNC over her work on the 1619 Project. 

Hannah-Jones was subsequently offered tenure at UNC, but rejected it to become a chair in race and reporting at Howard University, a historically Black university in Washington, D.C. 

Beth Keith, the associate vice chancellor of university communications for UNC, told The Hill that the agreement includes UNC accelerating its investment in “crucial initiatives” in its strategic plan, Carolina Next, to further its work. 

The plan’s initiatives include building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community, supporting career development and promoting democracy, according to its website

“The steps taken to resolve the lingering potential legal action posed by Ms. Hannah-Jones will hopefully help to close this chapter and give the University the space to focus on moving forward,” said David Boliek, the chair of UNC’s board of trustees. 

Hannah-Jones did not immediately return a request for comment through her legal representation, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. 

Hannah-Jones said that she ultimately made the decision to reject the job at UNC because it was offered after she was initially denied status, and came after weeks of protests and legal action.

“This fight is about ensuring the journalistic and academic freedom of Black writers, researchers, teachers, and students,” she said at the time. “We must ensure that our work is protected and able to proceed free from the risk of repercussions, and we are not there yet.”

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