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UNC Board of Trustees approves tenure for controversial 1619 creator Nikole Hannah-Jones

The controversial creator of the 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones, was granted tenure by the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees on Wednesday.

The board had met for a special meeting and voted 9-4 to approve her tenure application, the Daily Tar Heel reported.

Prior to the vote, a skirmish took place between police and student protesters in support of Hannah-Jones. Police had to clear the room to allow the closed session to take place, and students fought back as officers worked to get them to exit the room.

“Several demonstrators are forcibly removed by police from a closed session meeting of the UNC-Chapel Hill trustees Wednesday as the board prepared to discuss and vote on tenure for distinguished journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones,” tweeted Raleigh News & Observer journalist Travis Long.

After the vote, protesters continued to voice frustration.

“Demonstrators confront Gene Davis, vice chairman of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees and Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz after the board voted to approve tenure for distinguished journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. Davis agreed to set up a meeting to hear protesters’ concerns,” Long tweeted.

Hannah-Jones blamed officials for not properly explaining the proceedings to students.

“It should have been communicated how this meeting would go, that tenure proceedings are always held in closed session, and an attempt made to de-escalate. Instead Black students were shoved and punched because they were confused about the process. This is not right,” she tweeted.

After the vote, Hannah-Jones also tweeted a picture holding up a drink, presumably giving a cheers to the results.

Wednesday’s vote adds to Hannah-Jones’ five-year contract to teach at the journalism school, which initially had only included an option for tenure.

The Daily Tar Heel reports that the closed session lasted nearly three hours and student demonstrators had to wait outside for most of the meeting, adding:

Once the meeting came back to open session, the Board held a formal vote and approved Hannah-Jones’ tenure application. Trustees Dave Boliek, Haywood Cochrane, Allie Ray McCullen and John Preyer voted against it.

“In so (approving the tenure), this board reaffirms that the University puts its highest values first,” Trustee Gene Davis said. Demonstrators laughed in response.

The special session came after Hannah-Jones declared that she would not teach at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill without first being granted tenure. She alleged “viewpoint discrimination” in violation of state and federal law as well as “race and sex discrimination.”

A major UNC donor, Walter Hussman, for whom the journalism school is named, had said that Hannah-Jones would threatened the school’s “core values,” and with that she claimed there was never a “good faith consideration” of her application for tenure.

In the months leading up to Wednesday’s vote, UNC Chapel Hill leaders faced increasing calls to grant tenure to Hannah-Jones, including rowdy student protests and a threat of legal action.

Hannah-Jones is scheduled to join UNC’s faculty in July. She is well-known as the architect of the highly controversial New York Times’ 1619 Project, for which she won a Pulitzer Prize.

The 1619 Project was roundly criticized by many scholars and the New York Times had to issue a correction over it because it was not historically accurate.

Just The News had reported in late May that UNC trustees had concerns over Hannah-Jones’ lack of a traditional scholarly background well before the official announcement over her hiring had been made, and that the board had postponed the tenure review for Hannah-Jones in January, three months before UNC announced the hire.

As College Fix Associate Editor Matt Lamb pointed out in a recent analysis piece, Hannah-Jones does not have an inherent right to a tenured position.

The “concerns about Jones seem to be based on the merit of her work — if The New York Times admitted flaws in Jones’ research, why can’t the board of trustees also point to problems in their decision not to grant her tenure or not to vote on her tenure immediately?”

MORE: ‘1619 creator’ refuses to start her job at UNC unless she’s immediately granted tenure

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.