Nikole Hannah-Jones has revealed she will not accept tenure at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after weeks of controversy. The award-winning journalist was set to take the role of Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the Hussman School of Journalism. As VIBE previously reported on July 1, Hannah-Jones was only offered tenure after widespread backlash and the threat of legal action.
Initially in May, she was declined the security and esteem of tenure by the university even though it has historically been offered to academics in her position. Instead, she was offered a five-year contract. Now, after a back-and-forth with UNC and being offered tenure at the last minute, Hannah-Jones has decided to take her expertise to another university this fall.
As a guest on CBS This Morning, the 1619 Project pioneer announced that she would not be accepting UNC’s offer, saying it was “a very difficult decision, not a decision I wanted to make.”
“To be denied it and to only have that vote occur on the last possible day, after [the] threat of legal action, after weeks of protest, after it became a national scandal, it’s just not something I want anymore,” she said Tuesday (July 6).
During the interview with Gayle King, Hannah-Jones confirmed she would be teaching at Howard University instead.
“I have been very very thoughtful about my decision to go to a historically Black college,” she shared. “Since the second grade when I started being bused into white schools, I have spent my entire life proving that I belong in elite white spaces that were not built for Black people…I got a lot of clarity with what happened with the University of North Carolina.”
Acclaimed author Ta-Nehisi Coates, who is also a Howard alumnus and supported Hannah-Jones amid the UNC conflict, will join her as faculty at his alma mater his fall. Howard University stated the roles assumed by both highly-regarded journalists. She will be a tenured member of the Cathy Hughes School of Communications faculty, filling the newly created Knight Chair in Race and Journalism.
Howard University is proud to announce Nikole Hannah-Jones & Ta-Nehisi Coates will join the HU faculty to help educate the next generation of black journalists. The appointments are supported by nearly $20 million donated by four donors.
— Howard University (@HowardU) July 6, 2021
Hannah-Jones will also find the Center for Journalism and Democracy, focusing on training aspiring journalists with investigative skills and historical and analytical expertise. The center hopes to work with other HBCU’s that offer journalism degrees and concentrations. Coates will be a faculty member in the flagship College of Arts and Sciences.
“It is my pleasure to welcome to Howard two of today’s most respected and influential journalists,” said HU President Wayne A. I. Frederick in the statement.
“At such a critical time for race relations in our country, it is vital that we understand the role of journalism in steering our national conversation and social progress. Not only must our newsrooms reflect the communities where they are reporting, but we need to infuse the profession with diverse talent. We are thrilled that they will bring their insights and research to what is already a world-class, highly accomplished team of professors.”
Hannah-Jones added, “one of my few regrets is that I did not attend Howard as an undergraduate, and so coming here to teach fulfills a dream I have long carried. I hope that the decision that Ta-Nehisi and I made to bring our talents to an HBCU will lead others to make a similar choice.”
“Personally, I know of no higher personal honor than this,” said Coates.
Dean Susan King of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media also issued a statement on Hannah-Jones’ decision.
“Of course, I’m disappointed that Nikole Hannah-Jones will not be joining the school this summer. But I’m also aware it’s been a long six months for her and for our UNC students,” the statement reads: “We wish her nothing but deep success and the hope that UNC can learn from this long tenure drama about how we must change as a community of scholars in order to grow as a campus that lives by its stated values of being a diverse and welcoming place for all.”