Princeton historian Sean Wilentz and politics professor Keith E. Whittington have both been critical of Nikole Hannah-Jones' 1619 Project. Wilentz even penned an article describing the project's "inaccuracies," including the creator's claim that the American Revolution was fought to protect slavery. But if you thought they'd be in support of the University of North Carolina's Board of Trustees refusing to offer tenure to the New York Times journalist upon appointment to the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at UNC-Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media, you were wrong. Writing at the Chronicle of Higher Education, the professors say the decision, following conservative backlash, is a "travesty" that "will do lasting damage to the reputation of higher education in North Carolina" and inspire similar tampering at universities across the country.
They offer reasons faculty might have chosen not to offer Hannah-Jones tenure, including her "choice to sometimes dismiss and demean her critics instead of engaging with their arguments on the merits." But these "are matters for the faculty to consider," not the politically appointed Board of Trustees, they write. Indeed, "for the Board of Trustees to interfere unilaterally on blatantly political grounds is an attack on the integrity of the very institution it oversees." After all, the American Association of University Professors' Declaration of Principles stresses that faculty members must have "independence of thought" as they seek to educate the wider public. Otherwise, "public universities in red states and blue states alike would find themselves shrinking the acceptable range of scholarship and teaching" and "the mission of the university would be corrupted." Read the full piece here. (Read more Nikole Hannah-Jones stories.)