I do wonder if Walter Hussman was aware of what his $25 million donation to UNC would do to his reputation. He’s standing out as a central villain in the denial of Nikole Hannah-Jones’ tenure.
But as news stories revealed the extent of pressure from conservatives, including Arkansas media magnate and UNC mega-donor Walter Hussman, Hannah-Jones said returning to her alma mater to teach seemed less logical.
“Once the news broke and I started to see the extent of the political interference, particularly the reporting on Walter Hussman, it became really clear to me that I just could not work at a school named after Walter Hussman,” Hannah-Jones said. “To be a person who has stood for what I stand for and have any integrity whatsoever, I just couldn’t see how I could do that.”
The journalism school was renamed for Hussman after receiving a $25 million donation from him in 2019. The school also committed to etching what Hussman calls his “core values” into stone on the building. No one, including the school’s dean Susan King, said they foresaw that Hussman would assume the gift granted him far more than naming rights.
When King told Hussman she was pursuing Hannah-Jones for the school’s new Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism, he objected. When King stood firm, Hussman peppered Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Vice Chancellor David Routh, who oversees charitable giving at the school, with emails detailing his opposition. They included complaints about “The 1619 Project,” the award-winning, long-form journalism project originally published in The New York Times and conceived of by Hannah-Jones — she won a Pulitzer in commentary for her opening essay — that’s been the target of criticism from many conservatives. Hussman also personally objected to her views on reparations to Black Americans for slavery. Hussman shared his emails critical of Hannah-Jones’s work with at least one member of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees. The board subsequently decided not to consider her tenure application.
So here’s this rich old fart who smugly assumes that he could buy the curriculum and faculty of a university, and that his one-time major donation made him a permanent consultant in hiring decisions. If anyone wants to donate millions of dollars to my university, we will be grateful and deeply appreciate it, but not if you think it gives you the right to meddle.
It actually makes me think we need to tax the rich more to remove their temptation to think they’ve got the right to own everything.