The conservative backlash to the acclaim of the widely-heralded 1619 Project by the New York Times Magazine has caused another controversy for journalist and 2020 Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones.
Hannah-Jones was denied a tenured professorship at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill this week. The position, a Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism, was denied her by the school’s Board of Trustees this week despite the recommendations of the dean, faculty and school Chancellor Kevin Gusciewicz. Instead, she will begin a five-year contract with her alma mater beginning July 1st as a Professor of the Practice with the option to have another tenure review at the end of her term.
The move has stoked outrage by many of her supporters as there has been reports of significant pressure wielded by right-wing groups leading up to this moment, like an unsigned editorial by the Carolina Partnership for Reform. They have been backed by those with high position within the UNC system, such as the Board of Governors Chair Randy Ramsey. A Board of Trustees member, speaking under anonymity said this of the decision: “The university and the board of trustees and the Board of Governors and the legislature have all been getting pressure since this thing was first announced last month. There have been people writing letters and making calls, for and against. But I will leave it to you which is carrying more weight.”
For now, the faculty at the Hussman School has put out a statement in support of Hannah-Jones calling for a reversal of the decision. The Knight Foundation has also put out a statement of support along with her editors at the New York Times. But this sets a very bad precedent for the suppression of critical teaching about race in academia.