FIRE statement on UNC trustees’ alleged nixing of tenure for ‘1619 Project’ creator

The reports, if substantiated, have disturbing implications for academic freedom

May 19, 2021

FIRE is investigating reports that the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Board of Trustees declined to follow through on a recommendation from the faculty and chancellor that journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, best known as the creator of The New York Times’ “1619 Project,” be granted a tenured appointment as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism. Hannah-Jones will instead be offered a term appointment without tenure.

If it is accurate that this refusal was the result of viewpoint discrimination against Hannah-Jones, particularly based on political opposition to her appointment, this decision has disturbing implications for academic freedom, which is vital in allowing faculty members to voice divergent views and in avoiding casting what the Supreme Court called a “pall of orthodoxy” over the classroom. When decisions on academic tenure incorporate a form of political litmus test, this freedom is gravely compromised.


Schools:  University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill