Pressure mounts on UNC trustee board as Nikole Hannah-Jones hires lawyers over tenure

The school's board of trustees decided in January, then last week not to include tenure in the chairwoman post that pays a purported $180k annually.

Published: June 7, 2021 11:41am

Updated: June 7, 2021 5:20pm

The University of North Carolina Board of Trustees is facing increasing pressure to grant tenure to New York Times Magazine reporter and Pulitzer prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones after denying the request in January. 

The controversy first began after Hannah Jones – who took part in the magazine 1619 Project – accepted a five-year contract to join UNC's journalism school as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism but also requested tenure as part of the deal.

The board had previously postponed considering the request, amid criticism about Hannah-Jone’s non-academic background and the commentary writing she provided in the magazine's Pulitzer-winning 1619 Project, which in part argues the American Revolution was fought protect the institution of slavery. Hannah-Jones wrote commentary for the project.

On Friday, the board revisited the question but again failed to provide Hannah-Jones with the tenure that she alongside dozens of student leaders and faculty members are fighting for her to receive. The post comes with a purported $180,000 annual salary.

In addition, the university is now facing a legal challenge from lawyers Hannah-Jones brought in from the NAACP legal defense fund. And Lisa Jones, an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, has withdrawn her candidacy to be part of UNC, arguing the environment seems to lack the diversity and inclusion she wants.

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