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UNC trustees reject granting tenure to newly hired ‘1619 Project’ founder

‘Why was a woman who distorts history, spreads unfounded rumors, writes three pieces a year, had to Google ‘epistemological,’ and doxxes fellow journalists up for tenure to begin with?’

The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill recently hired the mastermind behind the controversial New York Times’ “1619 Project,” but when the hire went before the Board of Trustees for final approval, its members reportedly rejected the tenure offer and instead only granted a five-year employment deal.

NC Policy Watch reports that the decision was made based in part due to conservatives’ criticism of hiring Nikole Hannah-Jones as a race and investigative journalism professor.

“This is a very political thing,” one trustee who asked not to be named told Policy Watch. “The university and the board of trustees and the Board of Governors and the legislature have all been getting pressure since this thing was first announced last month. There have been people writing letters and making calls, for and against. But I will leave it to you which is carrying more weight.”

Hannah-Jones began her career as an education reporter in the Raleigh and Chapel Hill area “where her coverage of school equity and the racial achievement gap in the Durham public school system led to school board action to improve education access and quality,” the university noted when it announced hiring her in April.

More recently she won a Pulitzer Prize as creator of the 1619 Project even though it was roundly criticized by many scholars and the New York Times had to issue a correction over it because it was not historically accurate.

She also said she never made the assertion in her piece that “1776 was not the founding of the country.” But there are receipts.

More recently, in February, she doxxed a Washington Free Beacon reporter, including his cellphone number in a tweet in apparent violation of Twitter’s terms of service. The tweet remained online for almost two full days, whereupon Hannah-Jones subsequently “wiped her entire Twitter history.”

After Hannah-Jones’ hiring announcement at UNC, center-right watchdogs, including the Raleigh-based James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, criticized the decision. On May 10 it published a column headlined “UNC’s 1619 Project Hire: A Case Study of Failed University Governance.”

On May 3, it published a column tiled “School of Journalism—or Ministry of Propaganda?” In it, scholar Jay Schalin wrote that “UNC’s hiring Hannah-Jones signals a degradation of journalistic standards, from one in which ethics and truth are prized to one in which a writer’s work is judged according to whether it serves a preferred political agenda.”

“For she has been exposed as somebody whose work is less journalism than an outpouring of emotions. The crown jewel of her career—leading a rewriting of the nation’s history called ‘The 1619 Project’—has been attacked and ridiculed by historians of all stripes and persuasions as unfactual and biased.”

Now that trustees have rejected tenure for Hannah-Jones, there is some backlash and accusations of cancel culture and political bias.

“If it is accurate that this refusal was the result of viewpoint discrimination against Hannah-Jones, particularly based on political opposition to her appointment, this decision has disturbing implications for academic freedom, which is vital in allowing faculty members to voice divergent views and in avoiding casting what the Supreme Court called a ‘pall of orthodoxy’ over the classroom,” announced the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

However, in response, others pointed out she is a bad journalism role model.

“Why was a woman who distorts history, spreads unfounded rumors, writes three pieces a year, had to Google ‘epistemological,’ and doxxes fellow journalists up for tenure to begin with,” asked Washington Free Beacon journalist Aaron Sibarium.

Ellen Carmichael, president of the Lafayette Company, chimed in with: “I’m still marveling at the defense of Nikole Hannah-Jones over this tenure stuff. A core tenant of journalism should be, I think: ‘Don’t make stuff up,’ and yet every historian actually trained on the topic she writes about said that’s exactly what she did.”

“ICYMI, that time the Pulitzer website stealth-edited the description of Nikole Hannah-Jones’s 1619 Project essay to remove the words ‘deeply reported’ and replace them with ‘provocative,'” scholar Cathy Jones pointed out.

MORE: New book meticulously debunks NYT’s 1619 Project

IMAGE: Twitter screenshot

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor of The College Fix. She previously worked as a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for a decade in Southern California, and prior to that held editorial positions at The Weekly Standard, Washington Times and FrontPageMagazine. She is also a Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship recipient and has contributed to National Review.