A decision not to offer a Black professor tenure has never been met with more resistance. Just last month, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones posted a tweet informing her followers that she would be filling the Knight Chair In Race And Investigative Journalism at the University of North Carolina. Typically, this position comes with tenure, but the university offered her a fixed, five-year position instead. This decision has sparked backlash from a number of different groups and it's not stopping anytime soon.
More than 200 journalists, athletes, directors, actors and other public figures have published a letter calling for Hannah-Jones to receive tenure at the University of North Carolina. Published in The Root, the letter praises her work on the 1619 Project, points out the lack of Black professors receiving tenure and much more.
"State institutions across the country are attempting to ban frank and rigorous conversation about our history in the classroom. Few single works have been threatened with more restrictions than the 1619 Project, a landmark exploration of America’s deep roots in enslavement. And now, the 1619 Project’s founder, Nikole Hannah-Jones, has had her appointment as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill with tenure blocked by its Board of Trustees," the letter reads.
"We will cheer Nikole Hannah-Jones on when she steps into her classroom at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill this fall. But we will not turn away from the regrettable circumstances under which she will do so. The University’s Board of Trustees has failed to uphold the first-order values of academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. And too many lawmakers have wrongly deemed it their role to reach into classrooms and tell educators what to teach and how to teach it."
The list of those who have signed the letter includes Utah Jazz Owner Dwyane Wade, Portland Trailblazers Forward Carmelo Anthony, 13th Director Ava DuVernay and author Ta-Nehisi Coates. Previously, Hussman School of Media and Journalism Dean Susan King and University of North Carolina Student Government President Lamar Richards have both issued statements of support for Hannah-Jones.
“If she should decide not to come to this University as a result of not being considered for tenure, Kevin: I want you to know that you would have lost my faith in your ability to lead this University alongside the 30,000 students I represent,” Richards stated.
Hannah-Jones has not issued a public statement regarding the matter. It is unclear if she will accept the fixed, five-year offer.
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