Campus Reform | REPORT: UNC journalism school backs off plan to give tenure to author of debunked ‘1619 Project’

REPORT: UNC journalism school backs off plan to give tenure to author of debunked ‘1619 Project’

The University of North Carolina’s journalism school recently announced that it had tapped “1619 Project” founder Nikole Hannah-Jones to work as a professor.

After criticism from other academics, the university reportedly reversed course on offering Hannah-Jones tenure.

However, according to the report, Jones will still work as a professor for a "fixed-five year term."

The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill is reportedly refraining from giving the New York Times’ Nikole Hannah-Jones a tenured spot in the school’s journalism department after widespread criticism.


As Campus Reform recently reported, the University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media tapped Hannah-Jones to serve as the “Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism.”


[RELATED: Author of debunked 1619 Project to join UNC as 'Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism']


In a university press release, Knight Foundation director Karen Rundlet called Hannah-Jones — whose work on the “1619 Project” claims that the United States was founded to preserve the practice of slavery — an “outstanding addition to this group of leaders.”


Likewise, the press release said that her students will “research, report and help shape national investigative projects, with the potential to have their work published on some one of the biggest stages of journalism and media, reaching a global audience.”


However, the University of North Carolina reportedly reversed its decision to offer Hannah-Jones tenure. 


After citizens wrote the university and groups like the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal pointed out that the university’s ambiguous hiring policy could allow academics to receive tenure without trustee approval, NC Policy Watch revealed that the school “changed its plan” to offer Hannah-Jones tenure. Instead, she will work as a professor for a “fixed-five year term,” after which she could be reviewed for a tenured position.


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Hannah-Jones, according to NC Policy Watch, would be the only Knight Chair professor at the Chapel Hill campus without tenure since 1980.


NC Policy Watch talked to two members of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, both of whom indicated that politics played a role in the decision.


“This is a very political thing,” commented one trustee. “The university and the board of trustees and the Board of Governors and the legislature have all been getting pressure since this thing was first announced last month. There have been people writing letters and making calls, for and against. But I will leave it to you which is carrying more weight.”


“There was some discussion about ‘She is not from a teaching background, she is not from academia, so how can she just get a tenured position?’” a second trustee said. “But if you look at the previous Knight Chairs, if you look at Penny Abernathy for instance, these are people who come from the world of journalism. That’s the idea. That’s what the program is and it’s always been that way. So that argument doesn’t really hold water.”


Susan King — the Dean of the Hussman School — told NC Policy Watch that the decision is “disappointing.”


“It’s not what we wanted and I am afraid it will have a chilling effect,” she added.


Campus Reform reached out to Hannah-Jones and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

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