Nikole Hannah-Jones tells UNC no thanks and social media responds with support, sadness

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Five days after the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees granted tenure to journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur grant winner said no thanks to her graduate school alma mater.

Hannah-Jones is declining a position at the university’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media following a tenure controversy that escalated into a national debate. On July 1, UNC’s trustees voted 9-4 to grant Hannah-Jones tenure after it was not initially part of her five-year contract with the school.

The celebrated journalist will instead join Howard University as a Knight Chair in Race and Journalism, a position which comes with tenure, the famous HBCU said in a statement.

Hannah-Jones announced the move during an interview Tuesday morning with Gayle King on “CBS This Morning.” The response from UNC’s journalism school was a mix of support and disappointment.

On Twitter, Hannah-Jones said she would continue working to improve UNC’s treatment of Black faculty and students and that she would always be a Tar Heel.

According to reporting in the News & Observer, all previous Knight Chair appointments at UNC included tenure; Hannah-Jones’ contract was the first without it.

In a statement signed by 39 Hussman faculty members, UNC journalism professors called the university’s handling of the Hannah-Jones’ situation “humiliating, inappropriate and unjust.” They also called it racist.

UNC’s Black Caucus tweeted support for Hannah-Jones and called on the university to do more work to support Black faculty members and students.

UNC journalism professor Shannon McGregor apologized to Hannah-Jones on behalf of the school and vowed that faculty members would continue to push for equity.

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones announces on CBS This Morning that she is declining the tenured position at the University of North Carolina.
Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones announces on CBS This Morning that she is declining the tenured position at the University of North Carolina.

UNC Student Body President Lamar Richards congratulated Hannah-Jones and said activists at the school were fighting for more than tenure.

Joe Killian, a journalist for NC Policy Watch released a Tweet thread comparing interviews with Hannah-Jones and Walter Hussman, an Arkansas publisher and namesake donor of UNC’s journalism school.

Joining Hannah-Jones at Howard is Ta-Nehisi Coates, also a MacArthur fellow and celebrated journalist. Nicole Tinson founded the HBCU job network HBCU 20X20 and praised the move as a win for HBCUs.

The conclusion of the tenure controversy at UNC led other prominent Black journalists to respond to Hannah-Jones decision.

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