Racism and Reactionary Politics Kept Nikole Hannah-Jones from Joining UNC.

Hussman Faculty
4 min readJul 6, 2021


What Comes Next Is Up to Us

Today, we learned that Ms. Nikole Hannah-Jones has declined a tenured appointment as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

While disappointed, we are not surprised. We support Ms. Hannah-Jones’s choice. The appalling treatment of one of our nation’s most-decorated journalists by her own alma mater was humiliating, inappropriate, and unjust.

We will be frank: It was racist.

Our school highly regards Ms. Hannah-Jones’s work, ability, and achievements. We regret that the top echelons of leadership at UNC-Chapel Hill failed to follow established processes, did not conduct themselves professionally and transparently, and created a crisis that shamed our institution, all because of Ms. Hannah-Jones’s honest accounting of America’s racial history. It is understandable why Ms. Hannah-Jones would take her brilliance elsewhere.

Although our school and university espouse the ideals of transparency, equity, inclusivity, and fairness, the proclamation of such lofty goals without accompanying action toward dismantling systemic racism precludes substantive progress. North Carolina’s state motto is “To be rather than to seem.” And yet, Ms. Hannah-Jones would have been only the second Black woman to earn tenure in the School of Journalism and Media, a 70-year-old institution. The first earned tenure a mere three years ago. Ms. Hannah-Jones would have been the sole Black woman at the rank of full professor level in our school; at the university level, only 3.1% of tenured faculty are Black women.

The fight for the future of our university and school continues. What has occurred over the past several months has brought long-ignored issues in our community and nation to the forefront, but it has done so at the expense of the morale and well-being of students, staff and faculty, especially those who are BIPOC. We offer our unconditional support for the many who, like Ms. Hannah-Jones, have chosen to stay away or leave rather than serve an institution that repeatedly devalues, disregards, and degrades their perspectives, experiences, and contributions.

We offer our appreciation to Ms. Hannah-Jones for igniting this conversation, as well as our profound apology for what she has endured. It will not be in vain. The School of Journalism and Media is already working toward a full and transparent accounting of what transpired over the course of Ms. Hannah-Jones’ hire. We are reestablishing our autonomy, clarifying our values, and will demonstrate a model of faculty governance guided by diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

We are grateful to the many members of our university, academic, professional, and Chapel Hill communities for their support. We are equally thankful for the students and alumni whose words and actions reflect the best of our school. We strive to live up to your ideals, and will continue to fight to make UNC a university for all people.

Signatories (in alphabetical order):

  1. Deb Aikat, Associate Professor
  2. Lucinda Austin, Associate Professor and PhD Program Director
  3. Andy Bechtel, Associate Professor
  4. Lois Boynton, Associate Professor
  5. Stephanie W. Brown, Park Library Director
  6. Francesca R. Dillman Carpentier, W. Horace Carter Distinguished Professor
  7. Bill Cokas, Adjunct Instructor
  8. Maria Leonora (Nori) G. Comello, Associate Professor
  9. Paul Cuadros, Associate Professor
  10. Patrick Davison, Professor
  11. Julie Dixon, Professor of the Practice
  12. Tori Smith Ekstrand, Associate Professor, Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Distinguished Professor, UNC Graduate School
  13. Jay Eubank, Director of Career Services
  14. Deen Freelon, Associate Professor
  15. Livis Freeman Jr., Teaching Assistant Professor
  16. Barbara Friedman, Associate Professor
  17. Rhonda Gibson, James H. Shumaker Term Professor
  18. Elia Grahl, Undergraduate Hub Coordinator
  19. Casey Hart, Assistant Director of Graduate Studies
  20. Chad Heartwood, Associate Professor
  21. Heidi Hennink-Kaminski, Professor and Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Studies
  22. Angelia Herrin, Adjunct Instructor
  23. Angelena King, Special Funding Manager
  24. Nazanin B. Knudsen, Adjunct Instructor
  25. Daniel Kreiss, Edgar Thomas Cato Distinguished Professor
  26. Allison Lazard, E. Reese Felts Jr. Distinguished Associate Professor
  27. Tom Linden, Glaxo Wellcome Distinguished Professor of Medical Journalism
  28. Trevy A. McDonald, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Julian W. Scheer Term Associate Professor
  29. Michael McElroy, Adjunct Instructor
  30. Shannon C. McGregor, Assistant Professor
  31. Lee McGuigan, Assistant Professor
  32. Erin Siegal McIntyre, Assistant Professor
  33. Dana McMahan, Professor of the Practice
  34. Lee Meredith, Adjunct Instructor
  35. Terence Oliver, Walter Spearman Distinguished Professor
  36. Seth M. Noar, James Howard and Hallie McLean Parker Distinguished Professor
  37. Erica Beshears Perel, Director of Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media
  38. Liana Pinner, Director of Global, Immersive and Professional Programs
  39. Tamara Rice, Adjunct Instructor
  40. Tricia Robinson, Student Records Assistant
  41. John Robinson, Stembler Professional in Residence
  42. Laura Ruel, Associate Professor
  43. Kate Sheppard, Teaching Associate Professor
  44. Ann Marcella Schmitt, Graduate Program Coordinator
  45. Jenn Sipe, Assistant Director of Career Services
  46. John Sweeney, Distinguished Professor in Sports Communication
  47. Ryan Thornburg, Associate Professor
  48. Sarah Vassello, program coordinator at Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media
  49. Lisa Servia Villamil, Assistant Professor
  50. Matt White, Adjunct Instructor
  51. Barbara Wiedemann, Communications Strategist
  52. Xinyan (Eva) Zhao, Assistant Professor



Hussman Faculty

Faculty members of UNC's Hussman School of Journalism and Media