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The Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina recently offered the prestigious Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism to Nikole Hannah-Jones. Hannah-Jones is an alumna of the Hussman School who has received many honors for her writing. She recently won a Pulitzer Prize for “The 1619 Project,” which she organized and for which she wrote the lead essay, recasting the role of Blacks in American history.
But there was one hitch: Unlike previous winners of the Knight Chair, she would not receive tenure. This decision was made not by the faculty of the Hussman School, but by the trustees of the University. Mega donor Walter Hussman—for whom the journalism school is named— conveyed his disappointment to Board members and university officials about Hannah-Jones’ appointment. Hannah-Jones said she would not accept the offer unless it included tenure.
Black students and faculty were furious and saw the treatment of Hannah-Jones as evidence of systemic racism at UNC. The faculty of the Hussman School was outraged that the university board overrode their decision.
Yesterday the University board of trustees reversed their decision and agreed to offer tenure to Hannah-Jones. The vote was 9-4. They had to choose whether it would be more dangerous to offend the state’s Republican legislators or to offend their Black faculty and students and the faculty of the journalism school.