She got tenure in the end. A day before Nikole Hannah-Jones' teaching job at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill was set to begin, the board of trustees voted 9-4 to grant tenure to the award-winning journalist and creator of the 1619 Project, appointed as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media. Black faculty and students were furious by the board's initial failure to grant tenure to Hannah-Jones amid backlash from conservatives and a major university donor. Though tenure historically comes with her position, Hannah-Jones was offered a five-year contract with a later tenure review. More than 40 journalism school faculty wrote a letter condemning the board, while at least one Black faculty member resigned over the issue, per CNN. Hannah-Jones ultimately decided she would teach only with tenure.
The Wednesday vote followed a three-hour closed meeting, which began only after law enforcement shoved protesters from the Carolina Inn banquet hall. After the vote, board chair Richard Stevens said people had "wrongly questioned this university's commitment to academic freedom," which "we embrace and endorse." Some also accused the board and school of racism. Dawna Jones, assistant dean of students and chair of the Carolina Black Caucus, said Hannah-Jones' lack of tenure felt like another "slap in the face" after years of Black faculty members complaining about being overworked and overlooked for promotions. Hannah-Jones said the vote was about "ensuring the journalistic and academic freedom of Black writers, researchers, teachers, and students," per NPR. Though she celebrated with a drink, she said she needed time to "determine what is the best way forward." (Read more Nikole Hannah-Jones stories.)