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Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Leader of The New York Times’ 1619 Project - Receives Tenure At UNC

Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Leader of The New York Times’ 1619 Project - Receives Tenure At UNC

It's about time!

On Wednesday, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones finally received tenure at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), according to the Associated Press. After weeks of tension following a board member halting the process and questioning her teaching credentials, the board voted 9-4 to accept the tenure application.

The Pulitzer Prize winner released a statement on Wednesday thanking her supporters. 

"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.,” she said.  

Trustee Gene Davis told reporters that granting tenure to Hannah-Jones reaffirms that the university puts its highest values first.

“Today, we took another important step in creating an even better university,” trustee Gene Davis said after the vote was announced. “We welcome Nikole Hannah-Jones back to Chapel Hill.”

Hannah-Jones, a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine, earned her master’s degree from UNC in 2003 and accepted a position as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the university’s Hussman School of Journalism. Previous Knight Chairs at the university received tenure. She was offered a five-year contract with an opportunity for tenure. However, the school received backlash from conservatives who had a problem with her work on The 1619 Project, which “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”

Although the Hussman School’s and university’s leadership recommended her tenure, the board didn’t vote on her tenure during their last two meetings, which effectively denied her request for tenure. The board received criticism from UNC staff, students, alumni, and the public at large for their decision.

Hannah-Jones hired attorneys for a possible lawsuit and last week announced that she would not report to work without tenure.

Davis, the board’s vice chair, said UNC endorses “academic freedom, open and rigorous debate, and scholarly inquiry and constructive disagreement.”

“Our university is not a place to cancel people or ideas,” he said. “Neither is it a place for judging people or calling them names like ‘woke’ or ‘racist.’ Our university is better than that. Our great nation is better than that.”

Susan King, the UNC journalism school dean, told reporters she appreciated the board approving Hannah-Jones’ tenure.

“Hannah-Jones will make our school better with her presence,” she said in a statement. “She will deepen the University’s commitment to intellectual integrity and to access for all.”

Hannah-Jones said that her approval is about more than just her, "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," she said. "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.”

Her supporters have taken to social media to congratulate her!

Congratulations, Nikole, you deserve this! 

Photo Credit: James Estrin/New York Times