Protesters boo and yell ‘shame’ as UNC Board of Trustees meet over Nikole Hannah-Jones’ tenure

Orange County News

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – The UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees approved tenure for Nikole Hannah-Jones by a 9-4 vote on Wednesday.


Protesters yelled and held signs Wednesday at the UNC Board of Trustees meeting over Nikole Hannah-Jones’ tenure.

More than 70 students walked into the special meeting of the Board with signs that read “Abolish BOT” and “Academic Freedom.”

The trustees planned the special meeting at which they are expected to vote on whether to offer tenure to Hannah-Jones, key architect of The 1619 Project for The New York Times Magazine that explored the bitter legacy of racism.

Previous coverage: Hannah-Jones won’t join UNC faculty without tenure, letter says

The university had announced in April that Hannah-Jones, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her work on the project, would be joining the faculty in July. She had accepted a five-year contract to join the journalism school’s faculty as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism.

Earlier in the year, Hannah-Jones’ tenure application was halted because she didn’t come from a “traditional academic-type background,” and a trustee who vets the lifetime appointments wanted more time to consider her qualifications, university leaders had said.

Previous coverage: Nikole Hannah-Jones considers legal action against UNC over tenure dispute

The school has said little about why tenure wasn’t offered, but a prominent donor revealed that he had emailed university leaders challenging her work as “highly contentious and highly controversial” before the process was halted.

Some conservatives have complained about The 1619 Project, which focused on the country’s history of slavery.

Monday’s announcement of the scheduled meeting said only that the board would go into closed session.

The Board’s move to go into closed session was met with boos as protesters were forced to leave the room.

UNC released a statement regarding the incident:

 “Approximately 75 members of the public attended today’s Board of Trustees meeting and demonstrated peacefully.  After the board voted to move into closed session pursuant to the North Carolina open meetings law, the demonstrators remained for a few minutes to express themselves. UNC Police then instructed the group to depart, and most did. A small number of individuals did not leave the meeting when asked. UNC Police followed protocol and moved those protestors into the hall. We respect the right of our community to peacefully express themselves, but the law is clear that demonstrators cannot disrupt public meetings and proceedings. The situation was resolved with no injuries and proceedings were able to continue without further interruption. The officers on the scene dispute the allegation made by the demonstrators, however anytime an individual makes a claim of excessive force, UNC Police will review the claim.” 

George Battle, Vice Chancellor for Institutional Integrity and Risk Management

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