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Nikole Hannah-Jones, an award-winning journalist best known for her work on The 1619 Project, was thought to be joining the faculty of the University of North Carolina of Chapel Hill this July. However, Hannah-Jones has elected not to start her position there until the university makes good with its promise to offer her tenure, a point that has met resistance from the school’s Board of Trustees.
NC Policy Watch‘s The Progressive Pulse blog exclusively reports that Hannah-Jones’ legal team sent UNC-Chapel Hill officials a letter stating that her appointment as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media will not begin as planned on July 1 until an agreement for tenure is put into place. It was noted by the blog that the letter from Hannah-Jones’ team was not to indicate her intention to withdraw from the position.
Hannah-Jones was sought out by officials at the school but the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees decided not to vote on granting her tenure despite the heavy recruitment. According to Policy Watch, Hannah-Jones was offered a five-year, fixed-term contract, standing in stark contrast to positions granted to previous Knight Chairs, all of whom were media professionals and journalists like herself, and that also included being hired with tenure.
Given the controversy and critique stirred by Hannah-Jones’ work on The 1619 Project, opposition to her gaining tenure, and the position itself, came from figures such as Walter Hussman, a media magnate that donated $25 million to the journalism school that bears his name. Hannah-Jones apparently signed the fixed-term contract but as the letter from the legal team states, her signing was thought to be just the first step towards tenure.
A portion of the letter from Hannah-Jones’ legal can be viewed below:
Since signing the fixed-term contract, Ms. Hannah-Jones has come to learn that political interference and influence from a powerful donor 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. Such good faith consideration for tenure was understood to be an essential element of the fixed-term contract when Ms. Hannah-Jones agreed to enter into it. In light of the information which has come to her attention since that time, she cannot begin employment with the University without the protection and security of tenure.
This coming Friday, the Black Student Movement group will be hosting a rally to protest in favor of Hannah-Jones gaining a tenured appointment.