As Kira Davis reported yesterday, The founder of the ‘1619 Project,’ Nikole Hannah-Jones, was denied tenure at the University of North Carolina’s journalism school and that has caused an outcry from people claiming the denial was based on race and politics.
This per USA Today, who immediately chose to frame this as racism by speaking to “First Amendment experts,” whatever that means.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, was denied tenure at the University of North Carolina, her alma mater, by its board of trustees, according to a report by NC Policy Watch.
The board’s decision sparked outrage online and from faculty and staff. Some have claimed the board’s decision resulted after pressure from conservatives.
An anonymous board member told NC Policy Watch that the university, board of trustees and the North Carolina legislature had been receiving letters and phone calls in support and opposition since Hannah-Jones’ hire was announced.
Here was one of the claims made in the article.
“It seems to me that this is kind of an attack on freedom of the press because it seems Hannah-Jones is being penalized for producing in-depth, robust journalism that disturbs privileged people,” Costello told USA TODAY. “She’s writing about truths that privileged people have worked for decades to suppress.”
Costello said Hannah-Jones’ work is a testament to true journalism and investigation, stating her work revealed “disturbing but true” facts about slavery in America. Costello fears UNC’s decision will deter journalists from producing similar investigations deemed “controversial” out of fear of repercussions.
Further, even the libertarian publication Reason spoke out in support of Jones, claiming it violated some tenant of academic freedom to deny her a tenured position.
Nikole Hannah-Jones was denied tenure at UNC-Chapel Hill. Not all the details are clear, but I'd say I'm reasonably concerned this was politically motivated and thus a blow to academic freedom. https://t.co/jNyCtJOZ1e
— Robby Soave (@robbysoave) May 20, 2021
In reality, the mistake was ever offering her tenure in the first place. Tenured professorships are usually given to people with fairly specific qualifications. One, they typically have an academic background. Jones does not have that. Two, they almost always have a doctorate. Jones does not have one of those. Third, they are typically given to people with a breadth of scholarly works, not just a single, error-ridden piece of revisionist history. Lastly, since we are talking about a journalism school, shouldn’t Jones be, you know, a journalist? Because she’s certainly not one of those.
In other words, under no normal standard would Jones have ever even been considered for tenure if she wasn’t famous. The fact that the faculty lobbied for her is largely irrelevant, and if the trustees responded to pressure, that’s probably a good thing. They should have been pressured to uphold some semblance of a standard when it comes to who they give tenure to. It’s essentially unheard of for someone to just walk into a university and be offered tenure. What makes Jones special? I’d posit nothing at all does. In fact, her seminal work was so badly written that it should have been a strike against her, not for her.
Besides, Jones is already operating as the de facto editor of The New York Times. That’s a pretty sweet gig as it is. Past that, UNC did offer her a five-year, high-level contract. It’s not like they kicked her to the curb. No one was “canceled” here.
In the end, Jones will be just fine and UNC gets to retain some semblance of credibility as a university. Seems like a win/win to me. Of course, UNC may reverse course as the entire mainstream media crashes down on their heads, accusing them of racism. We’ll find out, I guess.