New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, developer of the controversial 1619 Project, has declined a tenure offer from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. This after fighting hard to get it, only for the board to deny it, then offer it again.
In an interview with CBS This Morning's Gayle King Tuesday morning, Hannah-Jones discussed the reasoning behind why she declined the offer, and what's coming next for her.
"Look what it took to get tenure," said Hannah-Jones, responding to why she said no to the school’s offer. "This was a position that since the 1980s came with tenure. The Knight Chairs are designed for professional journalists who are working in the field to come into academia."
Despite a 9-4 vote in Hannah-Jones favor from the board of trustees, she will be heading to Howard University, becoming an inaugural Knight Chair in Race and Journalism at the school.
"And every other chair before me, who also happened to be white, received that position with tenure," Hannah-Jones added, stressing that nobody in that position had been denied tenure before.
Hannah-Jones said that despite receiving support of faculty, "to be denied it, and to only have that vote occur on the last possible day, at the last possible moment, after threat of legal action, after weeks of protest, after it became a national scandal, it's just not something I want anymore."
In late May, the New York Times reported that Hannah-Jones was seeking legal counsel in a case against the school, regarding her tenure—or lack thereof. She sought counsel for the school’s "failure to consider and approve my application for tenure—despite the recommendation of the faculty, dean, provost and chancellor."
Hannah-Jones stated that she never wanted to drag her alma-mater's name through the mud, adding that she was willing to accept the original five-year option with the school.
"This is my alma-mater. I love the University. The University has given me a lot, and I wanted to give back," said Hannah-Jones. "It was embarrassing to be the first person to be denied tenure. It was embarrassing, and I didn't want this to become a puppet scandal. I didn't want to drag my university through the pages of newspapers because I was the first, and the only, black person in that position to be denied tenure."
She adds that the story didn't become public because she spoke out, but that others brought the story to light. The CBS appearance is the first time she is speaking publicly about about the incident.
Hannah-Jones claimed, when asked why she thought she was denied tenure, that conservative political interference was to blame.
"There was a great deal of political interference by conservatives who don’t like the work that I’ve done, particularly the 1619 Project, and also by the powerful donor who gave the largest donation in the seven year history of the journalism school," said Hannah-Jones. "It’s pretty clear that my tenure was not taken up because of political opposition, because of discriminatory views against my viewpoints, & I believe my race & my gender."
She also stressed that political interference in the tenure process goes against the state law, and that it had no place as part of the process. Hannah-Jones said that those going through the tenure process should be judged by the quality of their work.