Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and journalist for The New York Times Magazine, has been denied a life post at the University of North Carolina (UNC) after the university’s board of trustees made the unusual decision to disapprove of the department’s recommendation. journalism.
On Wednesday (19), the decision drew criticism from faculty members, who said the last two people in the post Hannah-Jones will occupy received life sentences after her appointment.
In late April, the university announced that Hannah-Jones would be nominated for the Knight Chair in Investigative and Racial Journalism at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at UNC. She will start as a teacher in July, while continuing to write for The Times Magazine. Instead of a lifetime position, Hannah-Jones was offered a five-year teaching contract, with a review option.
In the April announcement, School of Journalism Dean Susan King said, “Now one of America’s most respected investigative journalists will work with our students on projects that will advance their careers and start conversations about Critical Importance. “
The hiring of Hannah-Jones, who earned a master’s degree from UNC in 2003 and won a MacArthur Fellowship in 2017, sparked a backlash from conservative groups concerned about her involvement in the Times Magazine Project 1619, named after the year in which slavery began in the colonies that would become the United States. (Hannah-Jones won the Pulitzer Prize in 2020 for her comments on her introductory essay.)
Project 1619 launched an ongoing debate on the legacy of slavery, but has been criticized by some historians for certain claims and by conservatives for calling it “propaganda.” The Republican-controlled North Carolina legislature appoints the university’s board of governors, which exercises significant control over the institution’s board of trustees.
NC Policy Watch reported on Wednesday that the UNC board had refused to approve Hannah-Jones’ lifetime request. A spokesperson for the university, Joanne Peters Denny, said in a statement that “the details of the recruitment processes for individual teachers are protected personal information.”
Hannah-Jones declined to comment. On Wednesday evening, she wrote on Twitter: “I haven’t been here today, but just saw you all and really appreciate it.”
About 40 professors from the school of journalism on Wednesday signed an online statement calling for the decision to be overturned, saying failure to secure Hannah-Jones’ life appointment “unfairly alters the parameters and violates the rules. old rules and established processes “.
The statement added: “This failure is particularly disheartening as it occurs despite support for the appointment of Hannah-Jones as a full professor with a lifetime position by the Dean of Hussman, Hussman’s faculty and the university.”
She continues: “Hannah-Jones’ exceptional history of over 20 years in journalism exceeds expectations for a lifelong role as Knight Chair in investigative and racial journalism.”
Alberto Ibarguen, president of the Knight Foundation, said that while the institution funds the Knight Chair position at UNC, it has no influence on nominations. The agreement calls for a five-year term with a mandate review during that period, he said.
“It’s not for us to tell UNC or UNC / Hussman who they should appoint or stay,” Ibarguen said in a statement. “However, it is clear to us that Hannah-Jones is eminently qualified for the appointment, and we would ask the trustees at the University of North Carolina to reconsider their decision within the timeframe of our agreement.”
Hannah-Jones editors expressed their support on Wednesday. “Nikole is a remarkable investigative journalist, whose work has helped change the national conversation about race,” said Dean Baquet, editor of the New York Times.
Times Magazine editor-in-chief Jake Silverstein has been a strong advocate for the journalist and her work.
“Nikole’s journalism, whether she writes about school segregation or American history, has always been bold, purposeful, and dedicated to telling uncomfortable truths some people just don’t want to hear,” Silverstein said. “It doesn’t always make him popular, but part of the reason your voice is needed.”
Translation by Luiz Roberto M. Gonçalves