The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill did not approve tenure for New York Times Magazine journalist and The 1619 Project lead author Nikole Hannah-Jones after conservative groups complained about her hire at the school, NC Policy Watch reported Wednesday.
“It’s disappointing, it’s not what we wanted, and I am afraid it will have a chilling effect,” Susan King, dean of UNC’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media, told Policy Watch.
Hannah-Jones was recruited for the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism which, at the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, is typically a tenured position, NC Policy Watch reported.
However, after going through an extensive tenure approval process, the university ultimately offered Hannah-Jones a non-tenured professorship.
Hannah-Jones is a former UNC student, a Pulitzer Prize winner and has received the MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Grant,” among other awards.
She did not immediately respond to The Hill’s requests for comment.
A UNC-Chapel Hill spokesperson declined to comment saying, “The details of individual faculty hiring processes are personnel protected information.”
Not long after Hannah-Jones’s hire was announced last month, the decision was critiqued by conservative groups in North Carolina, the NC Policy Watch and the Raleigh News & Observer reported.
Those groups specifically called out her role in The 1619 Project, which examines the role slavery played in the U.S. founding. It has been criticized by conservatives as being skewed and inaccurate and some states have sought to ban it from classrooms.
To be awarded tenure, Hannah-Jones had to undergo a rigorous application process and then be approved by the UNC-Chapel Hill board of trustees.
However, once it got to that point, the board declined to take any action on Hannah-Jones’s application. So to ensure she was hired, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz offered Hannah-Jones a fixed-term position — with a chance for tenure in five years — that does not require board approval.
“It was a work-around,” a member of the board of trustees told Policy Watch.
After the news broke, 24 faculty members of Hussman School of Journalism and Media faculty signed a public statement asking the school to change its decision.
“We call on the university’s leadership to reaffirm its commitment to the university, its faculty and time-honored norms and procedures, and its endorsed values of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” the statement read. “The university must tenure Nikole Hannah-Jones as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism.”
[via The Hill]