Nikole Hannah-Jones is to teach two courses at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's journalism school this fall. But she won't be in class unless she gets tenure, according to a letter submitted by the 1619 Project creator's legal team. Others appointed to the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media have been given tenure, which requires approval by the university's board of trustees. But the board failed to vote on tenure for Hannah-Jones amid conservative criticism following her appointment, per the Washington Post. In what supporters and even some critics labeled a "travesty," the Black journalist—winner of a Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur grant—was instead offered a five-year contract with a later tenure review, which didn't require the trustees' approval. She agreed to the position beginning July 1.
She has since learned that "political interference and influence from a powerful donor contributed to the Board of Trustees' failure to consider her tenure application," the letter reads, per NC Policy Watch. Therefore she "cannot trust that the University would consider her tenure application in good faith" at a later date. This may refer to Walter Hussman, publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, who donated $25 million to the school that bears his name. NPR reports he "shared his opposition to Hannah-Jones' appointment with the journalism school dean, several university administrators, and, reportedly, two members of the UNC-Chapel Hill board of trustees." Hussman tells NPR that journalists must be impartial. But Hannah-Jones suggests unfair treatment based on her race. White journalists are "often treated as neutral, as if they are not going through the world in a racialized way," she tells the outlet. "But they are." (Read more Nikole Hannah-Jones stories.)