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UNC staff protesting after journalist denied tenure over slavery project


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    CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina (WRAL) — On Thursday morning, members of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Black caucus will hold a silent protest over a battle for a professor’s tenure.

In April, Nikole Hannah-Jones was hired to be the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism.

Hannah-Jones is a New York Times best selling author of ‘The 1619 Project’ about slavery in America, putting the topic at the center of our national narrative. Some critics and historians say there are factual inaccuracies in the book.

The Knight Chair position, is one that typically becomes permanent, with tenure. But Hannah-Jones was offered a five-year contract instead.

Hannah-Jones said she’s been trying to stay off social media but she sees the support given by others and is thankful.

“I’ve been staying off of here today, but just know I see you all and I am grateful,” she said.

At a board meeting Wednesday, there was clear disagreement between Board chairman Richard Stevens and others on the decision. The board chairman said they can’t “rubber stamp” tenure to someone.

At least 30 Professors have signed a letter defending Jones. Dr. Deb Aikat is one of the professors who signed the petition.

“Anybody would try to hire a Pulitzer Prize winner and bring that knowledge to our classroom,” said Aikat, part of the UNC Hussman School of Journalism. “Obviously, it has been very controversial and history is controversial. But I think you should allow some scholarly investigations into history and people will have differences, but this is like stifling a voice.”

Meanwhile, conservative groups like Carolina Partnership for Reform have referred to Hannah-Jones as “an activist reporter – not a teacher.”

Chair of the Faculty Mimi Chapman says she’s asking for the board to trust them in the exhaustive process in recommending someone for tenure.

Susan King, Dean of the Hussman School of Journalism, called Hannah-Jones “arguably the preeminent journalist of her generation.”

The protest will be held outside the Carolina Inn before the UNC Board of Trustees meeting. Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz is expected to speak later today.

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