UNC journo-school dean stepping down after Hannah-Jones fiasco

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UNC journo-school dean stepping down after Hannah-Jones fiasco

The dean of the journalism school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — who fought to get tenure for The 1619 Project writer and Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones — is stepping down.

Susan King — who has held the position of dean at the prestigious Hussman School of Journalism and Media since 2012 and is the school’s John Thomas Kerr Distinguished Professor — will continue to serve in the top post until a replacement is found, according to a letter from school Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Robert Blouin on Tuesday.

“[King’s] emphasis on creating experiential learning opportunities for students, increasing faculty support and upgrading facilities to reflect media innovation are among the reasons media and journalism is now the University’s second-largest major,” the letter said.

Hannah-Jones was not mentioned in the statement. Debate over her tenure at the school went public this past spring, centering on the work she did for “The 1619 Project” that appeared in the New York Times Magazine.

"The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story" by Nikole Hannah-Jones,
“The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story” by Nikole Hannah-Jones sparked controversy over arguing the American Revolution was meant to protect slavery.
AP

The central claim of “The 1619 Project” is that the American Revolution was fought in part to preserve the practice of slavery.

In April, the school announced that Hannah-Jones would be joining the UNC journalism school’s faculty as its Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism in July on a five-year contract.

Then in May, the Web site NC Policy Watch reported that the university would not offer Hannah-Jones tenure over criticism of “The 1619 Project.”

On June 30, the university’s Board of Trustees approved Hannah-Jones’ tenure in a 9-4 vote. But July 6, she announced she was declining the tenure and instead opted to take a similar position at Howard University, a historically black college in Washington DC.

“I have decided that instead of fighting to prove I belong at an institution that until 1955 prohibited Black Americans from attending, I am instead going to work in the legacy of a university not built by the enslaved but for those who once were,” the award-winning journalist wrote in a lengthy statement about the decision.

Nikole Hannah-Jones speaks on stage during the 137th Commencement at Morehouse College on May 16, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Nikole Hannah-Jones was approved of tenure on June 30, 2021.
Getty Images
The South Building at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
University of North Carolina educators have scrutinized the school’s Board of Trustees for mistreating Nikole Hannah-Jones.
Getty Images

Forty-one UNC staff members slammed the university’s “humiliating” and “racist” treatment of Hannah-Jones in an open letter after she denied the position.

“We support Ms. Hannah-Jones’s choice. The appalling treatment of one of our nation’s most-decorated journalists by her own alma mater was humiliating, inappropriate, and unjust,” the letter said.

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