Nikole Hannah-Jones declines tenure at UNC; heads to Howard University

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Deborah Dwyer, a doctoral candidate, holds a sign while gathered with fellow students and alumni on the steps of Carroll Hall, where the UNC-Chapel Hill Hussman School of Journalism and Media is located, before the university’s Board of Trustees is scheduled to vote on tenure for distinguished journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, on Wednesday, June 30, 2021, in Chapel Hill, N.C. Hannah-Jones is a key architect of The 1619 Project for The New York Times Magazine that explored the bitter legacy of racism. (Casey Toth/The News & Observer via AP)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones says she will not teach at the journalism school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill following an extended fight over tenure.

Hannah-Jones announced her decision on Tuesday during an interview on “CBS This Morning.”

Instead, Hannah-Jones said she would instead take up the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at Howard University, a historically black school in Washington, D.C.

One week ago, trustees at UNC-Chapel Hill approved tenure for Hannah-Jones, capping weeks of tension that began when a board member halted the process over questions about her teaching credentials.

The board ultimately voted 9-4 to accept the tenure application at a special meeting with a closed-door session that had sparked a protest by supporters of Hannah-Jones.

The university had announced in April that Hannah-Jones — who won the Pulitzer Prize for her work on The New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project focusing on America’s history of slavery — would be joining the journalism school’s faculty. It said she would take up the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism in July with a five-year contract.

But Hannah-Jones’ attorneys announced in late June that she would not report for work without tenure.

Earlier this year, Hannah-Jones’ tenure application was halted because she did not come from a “traditional academic-type background,” and trustee Charles Duckett, who vets lifetime appointments, wanted more time to consider her qualifications, university leaders had said. When the vote was taken Wednesday, Duckett voted to approve her tenure application.

The previous decision by trustees to halt Hannah-Jones’ tenure submission sparked a torrent of criticism within the community. It also laid bare a depth of frustration over what critics decried as the school’s failure to answer longstanding concerns about the treatment of Black faculty, staff and students. Those feelings came to the surface during the board of trustees meeting when students came face-to-face with board members and reiterated the problems they feel have been neglected.

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