New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones—who spearheaded the newspaper’s influential “1619 Project”—refuses to join University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s faculty unless she’s given the “protection and security of tenure,” her lawyers wrote in a new letter. Her legal team accused a “powerful donor” of helping to thwart her bid for tenure at the university, where she’s supposed to become the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media next month. “Since signing the fixed-term contract, Ms. Hannah-Jones has come to learn that political interference and influence from a powerful donor contributed to the Board of Trustees’ failure to consider her tenure application,” the letter says, apparently referring to newspaper publisher Walter E. Hussman Jr., who reportedly wrote to the journalism school’s dean that he worried “about the controversy of tying the UNC journalism school to the 1619 project.” The influential donor has since insisted Hannah-Jones’ hiring would not jeopardize his $25 million donation to the institution.
The letter also points out that others who have secured the Knight Chair were granted tenure, while she was only offered a five-year contract that doesn’t guarantee the job protection. UNC’s board has yet to vote on her bid for tenure.