By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Nikole Hannah-Jones won’t accept UNC’s job offer unless she is granted tenure

The Hussman School of Journalism and Media at UNC. Photo (cc) 2020 by Mihaly I. Lukacs.

Update: There’s a protest today, called by the University’s Black Student Movement. The dean of the journalism school has endorsed it.

Earlier: The fallout from the University of North Carolina’s refusal to grant tenure to New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones continues to spread. The latest development, reported by NC Policy Watch: Hannah-Jones has informed UNC that she will not accept its offer of a five-year contract, and will join the faculty only if she is granted tenure.

The UNC board of trustees has refused to act on her tenure case. A major donor to the journalism school, Walter Hussman Jr., publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, pressured the board because of his objections to the Times’ 1619 Project, a retelling of American history helmed by Hannah-Jones with slavery as its central theme. NC Policy Watch has also reported that the university’s treatment of Hannah-Jones, who is Black, is among several factors in what threatens to become a mass exodus of people of color:

Last week the Carolina Black Caucus reported 70 percent of its members said they are considering leaving the university.

The school has lost multiple high profile Black recruits, faculty and staff members since the controversy began. Professors are also reporting they have spoken with Black students at the undergraduate and graduate level who have decided not to return to the university as a result of the university’s actions in the Hannah-Jones case.

Jon Allsop has a comprehensive round-up of developments in his Columbia Journalism Review newsletter this morning. Among them is an important opinion piece in The Washington Post about the role of the southern white press in re-establishing white supremacy after Reconstruction. Sid Bedingfield of the University of Minnesota writes:

This history highlights why African American journalists have been compelled to advocate for Black equality. They have often carried out their campaigns in the shadow of a much larger White press that was fighting for just the opposite. And as Hannah-Jones has shown in her reporting, the success of those White journalists decades ago has ramifications today, as the legacy of Jim Crow continues to shape fundamental inequalities in American society.

What a disaster. The worst part of this — other than the obvious racism — is that the trustees and other university officials lack the fortitude to stand up to a major donor. Given how damaging this has been, you would have thought that trustees would have done the right thing long before now.

Previous coverage.

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1 Comment

  1. Speaking as a Hussman School alum, I appreciate your attention to this issue, but the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees and the UNC System Board of Governors were never going to do the right thing. Most of them are appointed by and take their orders from the Republican-controlled state legislature. It’s not just that they won’t stand up to a major donor or that they won’t stand up to their political patrons — they are more than happy to do the wrong thing. And not only don’t they care if UNC-CH loses faculty of color as a result, a lot of them would be tickled pink, as it were.

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