The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees could soon vote on whether or not to offer 1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones tenure. Her offer for tenure was previously pulled due to “conservative groups” with “direct ties to the Republican-dominated UNC Board of Governors,” The Daily Wire previously reported.
Hannah-Jones is scheduled to take a position as Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism beginning July 1. Part of the work-around for tenure was UNC-Chapel Hill offering her a five-year term, with the potential for tenure down the road.
Hannah-Jones’ tenure application never came before the full Board of Trustees for a vote. Trustee Chuck Duckett, who chairs the University Affairs Committee, asked for the discussion to be tabled. According to The News & Observer, Duckett had “questions,” particularly about Hannah-Jones’ lack of academic experience, an issue about which other trustees also raised concerns.
Even though the board has traditionally approved tenure for those in the Knight Chair position, Duckett told The News & Observer trustees aren’t “bound” to the precedent.
According to NC Policy Watch, the university’s Committee on Appointments, Promotion and Tenure resubmitted Hannah-Jones’ application for tenure on Tuesday, something Duckett confirmed.
The application was resubmitted after the Hussman School’s faculty and the university’s Faculty Executive Committee called on the trustees to provide Hannah-Jones tenure. Student Body President Lamar Richards, who also sits on the Board of Trustees, “sent a strongly-worded letter to the chancellor and provost at UNC-Chapel Hill, as well as the board of trustees chair, demanding they take a vote on tenure as soon as possible” last week, NC Policy Watch reported.
In addition, 1,619 alumni purchased a one-page ad in The News & Observer advocating on Hannah-Jones’ behalf.
“We are 1,619 University of North Carolina alumni outraged by the Board of Trustees’ failure to approve a tenured professorship for UNC [alumna] and founder of The 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones,” the ad stated, per a report from NC Policy Watch. “Dismissing a list of merits that includes winning the Pulitzer Prize, Peabody Award and MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant is an attempt to penalize Nikole Hannah-Jones for her groundbreaking and unvarnished reporting of American history. We demand that the Board of Trustees immediately revisit this matter, grant tenure as recommended by the appropriate faculty, Dean and Provost, and restore the integrity of our university.”
Hannah Jones took to Twitter to thank faculty and staff for their support.
“I am grateful for and overwhelmed by everyone who signed this letter and the N&O ad. This fight is not about me: ‘We call on all people of conscience to decry this growing wave of repression and to encourage a recommitment to the free exchange of ideas,'” the Project founder tweeted.
I am grateful for and overwhelmed by everyone who signed this letter and the N&O ad. This fight is not about me: "We call on all people of conscience to decry this growing wave of repression and to encourage a recommitment to the free exchange of ideas." https://t.co/Cw5jmwyMBl
— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) May 26, 2021
Hannah-Jones’ hiring – and potential tenure – have brought widespread scrutiny. She has come under fire from conservatives for the 1619 Project, which states that America’s founding actually took place in 1619, when slaves were brought to the United States. The Project also claims that the American Revolution was fought to preserve slavery, not to gain independence from Great Britain.
Brown University Professor Emeritus Gordon Wood pointed out the historical inaccuracies surrounding Hannah-Jones’ work:
I read the first essay by Nikole Hannah-Jones, which alleges that the Revolution occurred primarily because of the Americans’ desire to save their slaves. She claims the British were on the warpath against the slave trade and slavery and that rebellion was the only hope for American slavery. This made the American Revolution out to be like the Civil War, where the South seceded to save and protect slavery, and that the Americans 70 years earlier revolted to protect their institution of slavery. I just couldn’t believe this.
I was surprised, as many other people were, by the scope of this thing, especially since it’s going to become the basis for high school education and has the authority of the New York Times behind it, and yet it is so wrong in so many ways.
According to NC Policy Watch, the Board of Trustees is likely to vote on Hannah-Jones’ tenure at the end of June.