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By Lucas Thomae
Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist best known for The 1619 Project, was set to be given a tenured position at UNC this summer. Instead, the school has opted to give her a five-year fixed contract, as reported by NC Policy Watch.
The decision has drawn heavy criticism from many prominent members of the UNC Student Body who say that the school caved to political pressure from conservatives. On May 20, a group of “UNC student leaders and advocates” published a letter under the website of the UNC Undergraduate Executive Branch, directly addressing Hannah-Jones.
“We are frustrated and disappointed that our University, the flagship institution of the UNC System, has failed not only you, an outstanding alumna, but its students, its faculty, its community as a whole—and yes, the spirit upon which Carolina was founded: Lux Libertas—light and liberty,” the letter reads.
The letter goes on to state, “Walking into this University, unfortunately, you are walking into a place where respect is minimal, criticism is high, and quantity is all too few for academics of color—especially Black women. Knowing this and recognizing the critical importance of upholding the integrity and impact of your work, we cannot ask you to come here. We respect your work and your contribution to this country’s history too much for you or your scholarship to be the constant target of disrespect here at Carolina, be it from our leaders in South Building, the Board of Trustees, or Board of Governors.”
The letter had 31 signatures, among them Neel Swamy, the President of the Graduate and Professional Student Government, and Collyn Smith, the Vice President of the Undergraduate Student Government.
The same day, Hannah-Jones tweeted, “I have been overwhelmed by all the support you all have shown me. It has truly fortified my spirit and my resolve.”
The UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media had sought out Hannah-Jones for its Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism. Susan King, dean of the school, supported tenureship for Hannah-Jones, and faculty also published a letter expressing their support of Hannah-Jones and displeasure with the university’s decision. ●
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