1,619 UNC alumni, students take out ad in support of Nikole Hannah-Jones

Calling itself The Proud UNC Alumni, the group writes it's "outraged" the UNC failed to approve her tenure.

Members of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill community continue to speak out in support of investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones amid a tenure controversy that has made national news. 

This week, 1,619 UNC alumni and current students took out a full-page ad in The Charlotte News & Observer on which they signed to a statement criticizing the decision of the university’s Board of Trustees, who opted to not grant tenure to Hannah-Jones, the New York Times writer joining the university as a Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media. The holder of a master’s degree in journalism from UNC, Hannah-Jones was offered a five-year contract with possible tenure review during that period; past Knight chairs at the university were tenured. 

This week, 1,619 UNC alumni and current students took out a full-page ad in The Charlotte News & Observer in support of journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones (above) amid a tenure denial controversy. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)

Hannah-Jones’ acclaimed 2019 work on The 1619 Project, which earnestly explored America’s history of slavery and its legacy, won her last year’s Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

In the News & Observer ad, the group — calling itself The Proud UNC Alumni — writes that they are “outraged” the UNC Board of Trustees failed to approve Hannah-Jones for tenure despite recommendations from her future colleagues at the Hussman School. 

“Dismissing a list of merits that includes winning a Pulitzer Prize, Peabody Award, and MacArthur Genius Grant is an attempt to penalize Nikole Hannah-Jones for her groundbreaking and unvarnished reporting of American history,” reads the ad. “We demand that the Board of Trustees immediately revisit this matter, grant tenure as recommended by the appropriate faculty, Dean and Provost, and restore the integrity of our University.”

UNC-CH Student Body President Lamar Richards wrote a letter over the weekend to his board colleagues, in which he wrote: “The time has come to be vigilant, just, and equitable in our leadership and decision making, I say ‘our’ realizing that I have only just joined the Board, yet I take ownership and responsibility for every decision made here on out. And, most importantly, I take ownership for when I choose to remain silent and allow policy, procedure, and justice to be subsided.”

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As previously reported, educator and author Eve L. Ewing took to Instagram to explain the situation, noting that Hannah-Jones was not, in fact, “denied” tenure because she had the support of members of the department. 

“This really went outside the bounds of any type of normal university governance or decorum in a way that is shocking and is so clearly and indisputably ideological because the person who is being discussed is a person who is decorated in every way that a person can be decorated in the field of journalism,” Ewing said. “And so, there is no way to reconcile what has happened that is not this person did a project that we decided is contrary to the facts that we feel comfortable with acknowledging about this country and its racism, and therefore we are not putting it forward.”

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