You win a Pulitzer prize and a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” award, and you still get denied tenure? Those are standards that are impossible to reach for most of us. There must be extenua…oh. She’s black.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, who founded the Pulitzer-winning “1619 Project,” was not offered tenure at her alma matter, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Instead, she was offered a different role with the option for a tenure review in five years.
The reversal from the university, which previously announced the MacArther Fellow would teach in the Knight Chair position that comes with the expectation of tenure, came after conservative pushback to the “1619 Project” but wasn’t supported by the faculty and tenure committee.
Oh, that’s interesting. Tenure comes in stages: first you get a thorough grilling by your peers at the university, and then if you pass that, a recommendation to grant tenure is passed to the regents or trustees or in UNC’s case, a board of governors consisting of people appointed by the state government, who have final say. It’s extremely unusual for a tenure decision by the faculty to be rejected by Those On High — the board usually consists of wealthy donors who have no knowledge of the fields they stand in judgment over, and rejecting a faculty decision is going to make those faculty very unhappy.
Yet they took that step in this case, against an incredibly well-qualified candidate and genuine super-star in journalism. Why? Why would a bunch of political appointees in a politically conservative Southern state decide to break from a policy of hands-off to meddle in an academic appointment?
Failure to tenure Nikole Hannah-Jones in her role as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism is a concerning departure from UNC’s traditional process and breaks precedent with previous tenured full professor appointments of Knight chairs in our school. This failure is especially disheartening because it occurred despite the support for Hannah-Jones’s appointment as a full professor with tenure by the Hussman Dean, Hussman faculty, and university. Hannah-Jones’s distinguished record of more than 20 years in journalism surpasses expectations for a tenured position as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism.
I think we have a clear case of Konservative Kancel Kulture at work. She’s one of the founders of the 1619 Project, and they reached out and stomped on her.
I’ll be waiting a long time before I hear the usual defenders of Academic Freedom and Free Speech Uber Alles say a single word about the decision, won’t I?