Nikole Hannah-Jones has officially been granted tenure by the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Trustees voted on Wednesday (June 30) according to NBC News. The vote comes just a week after the Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist vowed to not join the faculty without tenure. Hannah-Jones was appointed to join the Hussman School of Journalism and Media as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism and was unprecedentedly denied tenure in April.
As VIBE previously reported. Hannah-Jones issued the ultimatum through her legal team who claimed political forces were influential in the initial refusal to offer her a permanent post.
“In light of the information which has come to her attention since that time, she cannot begin employment with the University without the protection and security of tenure,” the letter stated.
Set to transition into the role Thursday (July 1), the trustees’ vote arrived just in time. Board vice-chair Gene Davis called Wednesday’s vote to grant tenure “an important step in creating an even better university.”
During the closed-session vote, students protesting on Hannah-Jones’ behalf were involved in an altercation with police officers. News Observer reported 75 students, organized by the campus Black Student Movement refused to leave the room when the board of trustees moved to discuss and vote on the tenure issue. According to the report, a student claimed to have been punched in the face as officers physically forced them out of the room.
Hannah-Jones shared an image from the chaotic scene on social media, calling out the unfairness of the entire engagement.
“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,” she tweeted. “Instead Black students were shoved and punched because they were confused about the process. This is not right.’
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
Once the meeting ended, the protest-inducing decision was reversed. In a 9-4 vote, the UNC trustees approved the standard, tenured status for an academic professional assuming the role of department chair. Hannah Jones issued a statement on the vote and the national and local backing from peers and students alike.
“I want to acknowledge the tremendous outpouring of support I have received from students, faculty, colleagues, and the general public over the last month – including the young people who showed up today at the Board of Trustees meeting, putting themselves at physical risk,” the statement reads. “I am honored and grateful for and inspired by you all. I know that this vote would not have occurred without you.
“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. We must ensure that our work is protected and able to proceed free from the risk of repercussions, and we are not there yet. These last weeks have been very challenging and difficult and I need to take some time to process all that has occurred and determine what is the best way forward.”