Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones is preparing to lawyer up after having her tenure snubbed by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Faculty members at UNC have been outraged after the school’s Board of Trustees decided to rescind Jones’ tenure offer possibly due to her ties to “The 1619 Project.” Hannah-Jones is a professor at the school and also holds a master’s degree. Earlier this month she was appointed as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at UNC’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media, Fox News reports.
On Thursday, Hannah-Jones announced her plans to take legal action against UNC due to the “anti-democratic suppression” she believes is being forced onto her. Attorneys for Hannah-Jones noted that despite the NY Times writer’s recommendation by the journalism department and senior university officials, she was denied the same tenure previous UNC Knight Chairs have been given.
“I had no desire to bring turmoil or a political firestorm to the university that I love,” Hannah-Jones said, “but I am obligated to fight back against a wave of anti-democratic suppression that seeks to prohibit the free exchange of ideas, silence Black voices and chill free speech.”
Hannah-Jones was given a five-year, fixed-term contract after joining UNC but the deal didn’t include tenure despite the school’s history of granting tenure to Knight Chairs. Her legal team includes attorneys from Levy Ratner PC and Furgeson, Chambers & Sumter P.A., and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
“We are evaluating all available legal recourse to fully vindicate Ms. Hannah-Jones’ rights, including possibly initiating a federal action against UNC, the Board and/or affiliated entities and individuals,” her legal team said in a statement to state lawmakers Thursday, via The News and Observer.
In their letter, they announced they were representing Hannah-Jones “in connection with the failure of the Board of Trustees (the “Board”) to consider and approve her application for tenure.”
“The 1619 Project” creator explained how she sought out legal counsel to “ensure the academic and journalistic freedom of Black writers is protected to the full extent of the law and to seek redress for the University of North Carolina’s adverse actions against me,” she told the News & Observer.
“As a Black woman who has built a nearly two-decades long career in journalism, I believe Americans who research, study, and publish works that expose uncomfortable truths about the past and present manifestations of racism in our society should be able to follow these pursuits without risk to their civil and constitutional rights,” Hannah-Jones said.