Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for The New York Times Magazine, was denied a tenured position at the University of North Carolina, after the university’s board of trustees took the highly unusual step of failing to approve the journalism department’s recommendation.
The decision drew criticism from faculty members on Wednesday, who said that the last two people in the position Ms. Hannah-Jones will hold were granted tenure upon their appointment.
In late April, the university announced that Ms. Hannah-Jones was being appointed to the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at U.N.C.’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media. She will start as a professor in July, while continuing to write for The Times Magazine. Instead of tenure, Ms. Hannah-Jones was offered a five-year contract as a professor, with an option for review.
In the April announcement, the dean of the journalism school, Susan King, said: “Now one of the most respected investigative journalists in America will be working with our students on projects that will move their careers forward and ignite critically important conversations.”
MacArthur fellowship in 2017, brought a backlash from conservative groups concerned about her involvement in The Times Magazine’s 1619 Project, which was named for the year that slavery began in the colonies that would become the United States. (Ms. Hannah-Jones won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for commentary for her introductory essay.)
The 1619 Project ignited a continuing debate about the legacy of slavery, but has faced criticism from some historians over certain claims, and from conservatives who have labeled it “propaganda.” The Republican-controlled North Carolina Legislature appoints the university system’s Board of Governors, which has significant control over the university’s board of trustees.
The website NC Policy Watch reported on Wednesday that U.N.C.’s board of trustees had declined to approve Ms. Hannah-Jones’s application for tenure. A spokeswoman for the university, Joanne Peters Denny, said in a statement that “details of individual faculty hiring processes are personnel protected information.”
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Ms. Hannah-Jones declined to comment. On Twitter on Wednesday evening, she wrote, “I’ve been staying off of here today, but just know I see you all and I am grateful.”
Nearly 40 faculty members from the journalism school signed an online statement on Wednesday calling for the decision to be reversed, saying the failure to grant tenure to Ms. Hannah-Jones “unfairly moves the goal posts and violates longstanding norms and established processes.” The statement added, “This failure is especially disheartening because it occurred despite the support for Hannah-Jones’s appointment as a full professor with tenure by the Hussman dean, Hussman faculty and university.”