The Washington Post

UNC settles tenure dispute with journalist

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The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill says it has reached a settlement with journalist Nikole Hannah-jones, who ultimately shunned the school in an extended dispute over tenure.

David Boliek, chairman of the Unc-chapel Hill Board of Trustees, said Friday that the settlement with Hannah-jones was for less than $75,000, news outlets reported.

Attorneys representi­ng Hannah-jones last year threatened to take legal action, including filing a federal discrimina­tion lawsuit, against Unc-chapel Hill and its board over the failure to give her tenure, news outlets reported at the time. Boliek said that the settlement reached by the university was to resolve the “potential legal action,” and that a formal lawsuit was never filed.

Hannah-jones couldn’t be reached for comment.

The dispute over whether UNC would grant Hannah-jones a lifetime faculty appointmen­t prompted weeks of outcry as numerous professors and alumni voiced their frustratio­n, and Black students and faculty members questioned during protests whether the predominan­tly White university values them.

Hannah-jones — who received the Pulitzer Prize for her work on the New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project focusing on the United States’ history of slavery — was hired as UNC’S Knight Chair in Race and Investigat­ive Journalism at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

She has noted that she hadn’t sought out the job and was recruited by UNC’S journalism dean. Hannah-jones’ tenure applicatio­n was submitted to UNC’S trustees in 2020 but stalled over objections by a powerful donor and concerns by conservati­ves about her work. Instead, she was initially given a five-year contract, despite her predecesso­rs being granted tenure when appointed.

After weeks of mounting pressure, the trustees voted 9-4 to offer her tenure. Hannah-jones has said that the unfairness of how she was treated as a Black woman steered her toward turning the offer down. She accepted a chaired professors­hip at Howard University, a historical­ly Black school in D.C.

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