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Tenure Bid For '1619 Project' Creator Nikole Hannah-Jones Has Been Resubmitted

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill faced backlash when the Pulitzer-winning journalist was not given a tenured position upon her appointment.

The tenure bid for “The 1619 Project” creator Nikole Hannah-Jones has been resubmitted and sent to the board of trustees at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill following widespread backlash that the acclaimed journalist was not offered tenure upon her appointment. 

Charles Duckett, chair of the board of trustees’ university affairs committee, confirmed to The Associated Press on Wednesday that the board received the resubmitted offer from UNC’s committee on appointments, promotions and tenure on Tuesday. 

The school faced criticism last week when it was revealed that Hannah-Jones, who earned the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for her commentary in her introductory essay for the groundbreaking “1619 Project,” was not offered a tenure position upon her appointment. 

UNC announced last month that Hannah-Jones would be joining the school in July as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism ― a position held by someone recognized as a highly respected news leader who brings “insights about journalism and [supports] elevating it in the academy.”

People across the nation have publicly slammed the university this past week over its failure to offer Hannah-Jones tenure. 

Author Nikole Hannah-Jones speaks May 16 at commencement at Morehouse College in Atlanta.
Author Nikole Hannah-Jones speaks May 16 at commencement at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

Forty faculty members of UNC’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media released a statement last week calling Hannah-Jones’s non-tenured status “concerning” and “disheartening.” Their statement received more than 50 additional signatures from professors and doctoral candidates at other schools at the university. 

On Wednesday, 1,619 UNC alumni and students took out a two-page ad in The News & Observer to express their support for Hannah-Jones. On Tuesday, more than 250 advocates, including athletes, academics, writers and other public figures, signed a letter in support of Hannah-Jones that was published in The Root. 

UNC Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz and UNC Board of Trustees Chair Richard Y. Stevens addressed concerns about Hannah-Jones’s non-tenured status during a virtual press briefing last week. 

Stevens said that the full board of trustees, who have the authority to approve tenured appointments, did not take “any action” on The New York Times Magazine reporter’s tenure candidacy and appointment. 

He said that tenure candidates are proposed by various schools at the university, and those recommendations are sent to the UNC provost. The provost then provides the board with those recommendations for tenure. But the board of trustees’ university affairs committee vets those candidates before the full board gets the opportunity to vote to approve them. 

Duckett, who chairs that committee, asked UNC Provost Robert Blouin to postpone the review of Hannah-Jones’s candidacy prior to a full board meeting where tenure candidates were reviewed in January, Stevens said. 

“In his communication to provost, trustee Duckett asked questions regarding the tenure candidacy of Nikole Hannah-Jones and suggested more time to postpone the review to consider those questions and her overall application. That is not an unusual action for our committee,” Stevens said. 

NC Policy Watch, a news outlet from the North Carolina Justice Center, reported on Wednesday that the resubmission does not guarantee that the board of trustees will take a vote on Hannah-Jones’s tenure status. Three unnamed members of the board told the publication that they expect her candidacy to come to a full vote of the board by the end of June. 

UNC did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The New York Times Magazine’s “1619 Project,” which examined anti-Black racism and how the legacy of slavery plagues America today, notably drew outrage from conservatives, including former President Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

UNC faculty joined a chorus of people who charged that the board’s failure to offer Hannah-Jones a tenured position upon appointment was politically influenced. The faculty also pointed out in their statement last week that two Knight chairs, who immediately preceded Hannah-Jones, received tenure upon appointment. 

Hannah-Jones, a 2017 MacArthur Fellow (commonly referred to as a “genius grant” winner), was instead offered a five-year fixed-term contract. 

She tweeted last week that she was “overwhelmed” by all the support she has received. 

“You all know that I will OK,” she wrote. “But this fight is bigger than me, and I will try my best not to let you down.”

Susan King, the dean of UNC’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media, has been vocal about her support for Hannah-Jones receiving a tenure deal. 

On Monday, she tweeted that she hoped the board of trustees will vote on Hannah-Jones’s tenure package. 

“I think they will be impressed as are we,” she wrote.