SGA releases statement in support of Nikole Hannah-Jones

Students respond to journalist’s tenure denial at UNC

Jake Markland, Reporter

The Gardin + Evans administration released a statement June 25 voicing its solidarity for journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones in regards to her denial of tenure at UNC-Chapel Hill. 

Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for The New York Times, was set to join the UNC-Chapel Hill faculty as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism, but the university’s board of trustees declined to vote on her tenured professorship. 

“The Gardin + Evans administration stands with Black faculty, staff, and students as they continue to raise their voices against the BOT’s decision to delay justice to nationally acclaimed writer Nikole Hannah-Jones,” said the statement released on SGA’s Instagram.

Knight Chair professorships, designed to bring professional journalists into the classroom, are traditionally granted tenure at UNC-Chapel Hill. Rather, the university offered Hannah-Jones a five-year fixed-term contract. 

In a letter first published by NC Policy Watch, Hannah-Jones’ lawyers said political pressure played a role in the BOT’s move. The UNC-Chapel Hill alumna is most well known for her creation of the 1619 Project, a piece from The New York Times Magazine that places the beginning of American history at the first arrival of African slaves and emphasizes the contributions of Black Americans since then. 

The SGA statement stated Hannah-Jones is among the highest levels of professional journalists because of her work and devotion to telling the long-ignored stories of Black Americans. The administration drew criticism of App State, citing its motto “Esse quam videri,” which means “To Be, rather than to seem.” 

“The events surrounding Hannah-Jones prove that UNC System schools, including our own university, have a long way to go in order to live up to those words,” the administration wrote. 

Christian Martin, SGA interim director of diversity and inclusion, said the controversy around Hannah-Jones is disappointing but not surprising, echoing a message from the statement that Black and Brown students face these challenges in academic spaces every day. 

“The issue we’re seeing at UNC is not only about tenure,” Martin said. “This issue is a reflection of a much larger issue within UNC System schools.” 

Martin, also part of the Black At App State Collective, said the Gardin + Evans administration is committed to “amplifying all voices” and looks forward to working with App State’s administration to ensure there are welcoming spaces for all students, faculty and staff of color. 

In the letter from her lawyers, Hannah-Jones announced she will not join the UNC-Chapel Hill faculty unless she is granted tenure. UNC-Chapel Hill alumni, student government and many members of academic departments, including ones from the Hussman School of Journalism and Media, have publicly shown support for Hannah-Jones. 

“The Gardin + Evans administration condemns all forms of racial oppression and remains focused on uplifting the most marginalized Mountaineer communities and highlighting the need for a racial reckoning here on our campus,” read the statement.