Hannah-Jones won both the MacArthur Fellowship, which is called a “Genius Grant,” and a Pulitzer Prize for the work she did on the demonstrably false, far-left 1619 Project sponsored by The New York Times Magazine.
The 1619 Project is a major initiative of critical race theory which argues America was not founded in 1776, but rather in 1619, when the first African slaves arrived in the British colonies.
In Wednesday’s vote of 9-4, following a closed session, the UNC board gave Hannah-Jones tenure. Back in April, Hannah-Jones was appointed Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism for UNC’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media. According to Hannah-Jones’s legal team, she had been “repeatedly told that the position would come with a full tenured professorship.” Hannah-Jones was not initially offered tenure, however, but rather a “five-year fixed term with eligibility for tenure review at the end.”
The tenure application for Hannah-Jones was put on hold earlier this year, as a trustee said more time was wanted to consider the journalist’s qualifications. Hannah-Jones’s legal team said “she would not begin working until receiving the promised career-long appointment.”
While several hundred UNC faculty and students protested the fact that Hannah-Jones had not been offered tenure on Friday, Walter E. Hussman Jr., the newspaper publisher after whom the school of journalism is named, and a major donor, expressed concern about Hannah-Jones in a December email addressed, among others, to the school’s dean. “I worry about the controversy of tying the UNC journalism school to the 1619 project.”
After Hannah-Jones was granted tenure, however, Hussman texted The Associated Press to say he planned to continue supporting the UNC journalism school’s “advocating for the core values,” stating, “The University has now voted to grant tenure to Ms. Nikole Hannah-Jones. I look forward to meeting her and discussing journalism.”
Board Vice Chair Gene Davis said that Hannah-Jones’s reception of tenure was “an important step in creating an even better university.” Davis added:
“We remain committed to being a light shining brightly on the hill. . .We embrace and endorse academic freedom, open and rigorous debate, and scholarly inquiry, constructive disagreement — all of which are grounded in the virtue of listening to each other.”
In a statement which the NAACP Legal Defense Fund released, Hannah-Jones indicated the last few weeks have been “difficult and taxing” and declared her tenure grant was not just about her.
“This fight is about ensuring the journalistic and academic freedom of Black writers, researchers, teachers and students. . .We must ensure that our work is protected and able to proceed free from the risk of repercussions, and we are not there yet. . .I need to take some time to process all that has occurred and determine what is the best way forward.”
UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said of the tenure grant that “the university still has more work to do but is committed to ensuring that all voices are heard,” hailing the decision as marking “an important day.”