A Craven and Dangerous Tenure Denial.

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Date: June 11, 2021
From: The Chronicle of Higher Education(Vol. 67, Issue 20)
Publisher: Chronicle of Higher Education, Inc.
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,093 words
Lexile Measure: 1370L

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THE NEWS that the University of North Carolina will not offer Nikole Hannah-Jones a tenured position after all surprised no one who knows today's Republicans in general and the governors and trustees within the UNC system in particular. As a group, they are craven and ignorant in equal measure, and their ears perk up whenever the dog whistle blows. But even in light of their long history of indefensible decisions, this one stands out. The woman has a Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur grant, and she spearheaded what is probably the most effective public-history effort in the history of the country, "The 1619 Project." "Tenurable" doesn't begin to cover it.

The UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees did not refuse to sign off on her tenure despite those accomplishments but because of them. Universities hire faculty members who work on the history of racism and share Hannah-Jones's broad convictions and investments all the time, and regents, trustees, and governors do not get involved. Nikole Hannah-Jones is different because she drove the conversation into places where it could not be belittled and contained. As the Johns Hopkins historian Martha S. Jones, a historian of U.S. law and governance with a focus on the ways Black Americans have shaped democracy, told me:

"Regrettably, the brilliant Nikole Hannah-Jones joins a tragically elite cadre of educators too good for tenure. She's now a peer to the great Derrick Bell, who modeled how our purpose lies in the integrity of our work, not in the measure of functionaries. Bell gave up tenure at Harvard Law 30 years ago, after the school failed to hire any Black woman faculty member....

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