Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of The New York Times’ “1619 Project” is pushing back against the alleged employment discrimination at the University of North Carolina.
In April, UNC announced Hannah-Jones was appointed to the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism, where she would teach as a professor while also remaining with The New York Times Magazine. However, it was reported that UNC offered her a five-year contract with eligibility for tenure review at the end, rather than the tenured position that was typical for past appointments.
In the letter, Hannah-Jones’ lawyers said “since signing the fixed-term contract, Ms. Hannah-Jones has come to learn that political interference and influence from a powerful donor contributed to the Board of Trustees’ failure to consider her tenure application.”
“Under these circumstances, any appointment of Ms. Hannah-Jones without tenure is unacceptable,” the letter continues.
UNC has received intense backlash since the alleged influence behind the offer was initially reported. The UNC Board of Trustees told the The Washington Post last month that tenure wasn’t offered because Hannah Jones was a “non academic.” Critics responded that the decision didn’t make sense, since the Knight Chair was designed to attract professional journalists.
Black UNC faculty and students have also spoken out in favor of giving Hannah-Jones’ tenure. According to NBC News, the school has since lost esteemed Black faculty members, including historian Malinda Maynor Lowery. The UNC Black Caucus said 70 percent of its members, all UNC employees, are considering leaving the university.
UNC-Chapel Hill Vice Chancellor of Communications Joel Curran gave a statement to CNN regarding last week’s letter: “The University has been contacted by attorneys representing Nikole Hannah-Jones. While this remains a confidential personnel matter, as Chancellor Guskiewicz has said publicly, we feel she will add great value to the Carolina campus.”