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UNC has until Friday to offer Nikole Hannah-Jones tenure or face federal lawsuit


Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and MacArthur Fellow Nikole Hannah-Jones, poses for a portrait. Photo courtesy of John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Update May 29 1:45 p.m.: UNC has until Friday, June 4, to offer Nikole Hannah-Jones a tenured position or face a federal lawsuit, according to a letter obtained by NC Policy Watch.

The letter, written by the attorneys representing Hannah-Jones, outlines the case, including Hannah-Jones' qualifications and the timeline of her recruitment and tenure application. The letter was sent to Charles Marshall, the University's vice chancellor and general counsel.

"The reasons for UNC's denial of tenure to Ms. Hannah-Jones can only be understood as the product of political and racially discriminatory backlash against her life's work investigating, documenting, reporting, and uplifting Black Americans' fight against generational subjugation through racial oppression and structural injustice," the attorneys wrote.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and creator of the 1619 Project, is considering taking legal action against against UNC, the UNC Board of Trustees and/or any other affiliated entities or individuals, according to a letter first obtained by The News & Observer Thursday. 

Hannah-Jones will be represented by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Levy Ratner PC and Furgeson, Chambers & Sumter P.A.

“(We) represent Nikole Hannah-Jones in connection with the failure of the Board of Trustees to consider and approve her application for tenure as part of her appointment as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,” the letter said. 

Hannah-Jones’ legal team is evaluating her options moving forward. 

“We are evaluating all available legal recourse to fully vindicate Ms. Hannah-Jones’ rights, including possibly initiating a federal action against UNC, the Board and/or affiliated entities and individuals,” the letter said. 

The letter, addressed to North Carolina lawmakers, also states their legal duties to preserve and maintain any and all documents and data pertaining to Hannah-Jones' potential claims.

Last week, NC Policy Watch first reported that the UNC Board of Trustees wasn't going to take action in granting Hannah-Jones a tenured position at the University. 

The decision sparked controversy in the UNC community, with many students, faculty and alumni rallying in her support. 


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