Today, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah Jones will step foot on to the campus of the University of North Carolina to begin her run as the Knight Chair In Race And Investigative Journalism. Thankfully, she will begin her role at the university with the one thing that she has fought so hard to obtain, tenure.
After months of back and forth between university officials, faculty members, students and community members, trustees met for a special session on Wednesday. At the conclusion of their three-hour meeting, the group agreed to offer Hannah Jones tenure.
"We welcome Nikole Hannah-Jones back to campus," University of North Carolina Board of Trustees Vice Chairman Gene Davis said.
"Our university is not a place to cancel people. Our university is better than that. Our nation is better than that," he said.
Hannah Jones had been offered to the position at her alma mater months ago. However, her offer included a five-year contract instead of the traditional tenure associated with the position. The university's journalism school dean and student body president raised issues with the board of trustees' initial decision. As time went on, it appeared that the journalism school's top donor, Walter Hussman, stood in the way of Hannah Jones receiving tenure. Hussman raised issues with the 1619 Project and its portrayal of American history.
"I would love to ask Nikole Hannah-Jones about the core values," Hussman said during a recent interview.
"I try to be open-minded. If Nikole Hannah-Jones has information, has data, has facts about how the Founding Fathers fought the Revolutionary War to protect slavery, I'd love to see them."
After Hussman's recent interview, Hannah Jones publicly suggested that she may decide not to take the position at all. With this recent development, it appears that she will in fact spend time grooming the journalists of tomorrow at her alma mater. In a statement, the New York Times journalist thanked all of those who supported her and helped get her to this point.
“I want to acknowledge the tremendous outpouring of support I have received from students, faculty, colleagues, and the general public over the last month – including the young people who showed up today at the Board of Trustees meeting, putting themselves at physical risk. I am honored and grateful for and inspired by you all. I know that this vote would not have occurred without you," Hannah Jones stated.
“Today’s outcome and the actions of the past month are about more than just me. This fight is about ensuring the journalistic and academic freedom of Black writers, researchers, teachers, and students. We must ensure that our work is protected and able to proceed free from the risk of repercussions, and we are not there yet. These last weeks have been very challenging and difficult and I need to take some time to process all that has occurred and determine what is the best way forward.”