The board of trustees of University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, voted 9-4 to grant journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones tenure on Wednesday after a tremendous backlash, protests, and even the threat of a federal lawsuit when she was not offered tenure in April.
The board had originally offered Hannah-Jones a fixed, five-year contract when she was offered the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism last month. Past recipients of the position have been offered tenure.
In a statement, Hannah-Jones expressed her gratitude for the “tremendous outpouring of support” from students, faculty, colleagues, and the general public during the last month, saying that the vote would not have occurred without their support.
“Today’s outcome and the actions of the past month are about more than just me. This fight is about ensuring the journalistic and academic freedom of Black writers, researchers, teachers, and students,” she wrote. “We must ensure that our work is protected and able to proceed free from the risk of repercussions, and we are not there yet.”
Hannah-Jones is a Pulitzer Prize winner best known as the author of the New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project, which focused on America’s history of slavery. She has also received a MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Grant.” There was plenty of speculation concerning whether the denial of tenure was politically motivated.
Protestors Forcibly Removed From Carolina Inn Meeting
In her statement, Hannah-Jones also drew attention to the “young people who showed up today at the board of trustees meeting, putting themselves at physical risk.”
When the board of trustees met at the Carolina Inn to discuss and vote on Hannah-Jones’ tenure, a crowd of protestors assembled outside to show their support. She later condemned police on Twitter for forcibly removing attendees that refused to leave the room after the trustees went into closed session.
It should have been communicated how this meeting would go, that tenure proceedings are always held in closed session, and an attempt made to de-escalate. Instead Black students were shoved and punched because they were confused about the process. This is not right. https://t.co/37UPjWpDOR
— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) June 30, 2021
About 2 hours ago now, with @TaliajahV @jc_1303 @unc_bsm in support of @nhannahjones We were standing peacefully, when 4 officers forcefully removed us. Pushing, shoving and slapping. We protect us. pic.twitter.com/uUGq9IdtDc
— annabelle (she/her) (@annabellef17) June 30, 2021
Hannah-Jones stated her feeling that there should have been an attempt to de-escalate the situation and communicate how tenure proceedings must be held in closed session.