Higher Education Racism Scandals

Mercedes Schneider on the Reporter Who Broke the Story About the UNC and Nikole Hannah-Jones

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Republicans have whipped up a frenzy in the states and in the conservative media that they control about “critical race theory.” They are blowing up the issue because it benefits their party in two ways:

First, it distracts public attention from the violent and unprecedented assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6. They want to pretend that day—where their own lives were at risk—never happened. It was like “a normal tourist visit,” as one House Republican member said. It was a day of infamy that should never be forgotten, but Republicans are trying to bury it.

Second, the CRT dispute is the kind of cultural wedge issue that fires up the Republican base. They cheer as legislatures pass laws that would criminalize teaching about racism and sexism, because some students might feel bad to learn what really happened in the past.

Nikole Hannah-Jones is a celebrated journalist who has won major awards for her work. The current controversy was launched in reaction to “The 1619 Project,” which she organized and to which she contributed the introductory essay about the resilience of racism. It waspublished in a full issue of The New York Times magazine.

You know the story by now about how the journalism school at the University of North Carolina offered her the Knight Chair of Race and Investigative Journalism. But when the faculty decision reached the board of the university, they decreed that—unlike her white predecessors—she would not be offered tenure.

In response to ongoing protests by students and faculty, the board took another vote and agreed (9-4) to reverse their original decision and to offer her tenure. Hannah-Jones rejected their grudging offer and will instead create a journalism center at Howard University, the most prominent Historically Black University in the nation.

Mercedes Schneider posts here the story behind the scene, as written by Joe Killian of NC Policy Watch. Killian fills in the blanks about the influence on the original decision by Walter Hussman, the wealthy and conservative magnate who donated $25 million to UNC for the journalism school, which was renamed the Hussman School of Journalism. Initial reports suggested that he did not use his influence to affect the board’s decisions. Killian says otherwise.

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