The board of trustees of the University of North Carolina
has voted to grant tenure
to Nikole Hannah-Jones
, following concerns that the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist
was being treated unfairly in light of tenure being granted to other professors who had previously served in her role at the university.
On Wednesday, the board voted 9-4 to grant Hannah-Jones a tenured position.
Hannah-Jones, the acclaimed “1619 Project” creator, was set to join Chapel Hill University in July as the Knight chair in race and investigative journalism
, with the school recognizing her as “one of the country’s leading voices in journalism covering housing
and school segregation
, civil rights
, and racial injustice in the United States
This has been a highly sought-after tenured position, but UNC announced last month that Hannah-Jones' position would be on a contract with a review option; shortly after, it was reported that trustees had political objections to her work
and that there had been pressure on the board to prevent her appointment.
Students protesting for Hannah-Jones' tenure were aggressively removed from the session earlier Wednesday, and Hannah-Jones later expressed frustration that the closed-door nature
of the proceedings had not been explained: "Instead, Black students were shoved and punched because they were confused about the process. This is not right."
Hannah-Jones' creation of "The 1619 Project
," which examines the ongoing legacy of slavery
in the United States, has been heavily criticized. Hannah-Jones, who earned a master's degree from UNC, won a Pulitzer Prize for her introductory essay.
Hannah-Jones' attorneys later blamed the board's failure to consider her application for tenure on "political interference and influence from a powerful donor," which they said she "understood to be an essential element of the fixed-term contract" she agreed to; without tenure, she would be unable to work at the school.
In a public letter last month, forty members of the university's Hussman School of Journalism and Media
expressed their outrage at the decision not to grant her tenure.
“The failure to offer Hannah-Jones tenure in conjunction with her Knight chair appointment unfairly moves the goalposts and violates long-standing norms and established processes relating to tenure and promotion at UNC Chapel Hill,” the letter stated.
Hannah-Jones announced last month that she was thinking about filing a federal discrimination lawsuit
“I had no intention of bringing turmoil or a political firestorm to the university that I love, but I feel obligated to fight back against a wave of anti-democratic suppression that seeks to prohibit the free exchange of ideas, silence Black voices
, and chill free speech
,” she said in a statement.
Reporting was provided by Sarah Ruiz-Grossman.