Jen Psaki says Howard University students are 'lucky to have' 1619 Project founder Nikole Hannah-Jones as a faculty member after she rejected UNC's tenure offer

 White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said Howard University students are 'lucky to have' 1619 Project founder Nikole Hannah-Jones as a faculty member after she rejected a contentious offer of tenure from the University of North Carolina.

Psaki's comments come after she was asked by a reporter at a press briefing what President Joe Biden made of the UNC tenure process and Hannah-Jones' ultimate decision to join the historically-black college Howard University.

'I have not spoken with the president about the decision on tenure by the institution in North Carolina. I will say that the students at Howard are quite lucky to have her as a professor and in their family,' Psaki said.


'But I think there is no question that there continues to be systemic racism in our country. We see that in some sectors, including in some learning institutions.'

She added: 'That's why the president is continuing to make racial equity and addressing racial equity as a central priority and crisis he would like to address and focus on as president.'

Jen Psaki has said Howard University students are 'lucky to have' 1619 Project founder Nikole Hannah-Jones as a faculty member

Jen Psaki has said Howard University students are 'lucky to have' 1619 Project founder Nikole Hannah-Jones as a faculty member

Psaki said that Howard University students 'are quite lucky' to have Nikole Hannah-Jones as a faculty member 'and in their family'

Psaki said that Howard University students 'are quite lucky' to have Nikole Hannah-Jones as a faculty member 'and in their family'

Hannah-Jones has announced she will join the historically-black Howard University

Hannah-Jones has announced she will join the historically-black Howard University


Hannah-Jones has rejected the University of North Carolina's tenure offer and will go to Howard University instead after protesters brawled during a board meeting and she claimed a 'powerful donor' blocked her from the lifetime role. 

The New York Times reporter won the Pulitzer Prize for the 1619 Project which 'reframed' American history to focus on when the first Africans arrived to Virginia as slaves.

But the 2019 series of essays has come under withering criticism for portraying American history as fundamentally racist and also containing historical inaccuracies and generalizations.

UNC had initially offered Hannah-Jones the role as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at their Hussman School of Journalism - a role which has been appointed with tenure since 1980.


She rejected the University of North Carolina's tenure offer after a months-long controversy over her appointment

She rejected the University of North Carolina's tenure offer after a months-long controversy over her appointment

Psaki's comments come after she was asked by a reporter at a press briefing what President Joe Biden made of the UNC tenure process

Psaki's comments come after she was asked by a reporter at a press briefing what President Joe Biden made of the UNC tenure process

But they later backed out of the offer of lifetime tenure offer amid criticism of her appointment, and she was offered a five-year contract after officials said they were concerned about her lack of a 'traditional academic background'. 

Hannah-Jones noted the influence of a 'powerful donor' to UNC, a reference to Arkansas newspaper publisher Walter Hussman, who revealed that he had emailed university leaders calling the 1619 Project about the legacy of American slavery 'highly contentious and highly controversial' before the process was halted. 

But the decision not to give Hannah-Jones a tenured position sparked further outrage from the left, leading to UNC last week pulling off a second u-turn and deciding to approve her tenure. 

They voted 9-4 to accept her application at a special meeting in a closed-door session that was invaded by her supporters, sparking an ugly brawl. 

But Hannah-Jones has now refused to take up the officer, deciding to instead accept the position of Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at Howard, a historically black school in Washington, D.C. 

Hannah-Jones told CBS This Morning on Tuesday that she will become a member of the historically black university's Cathy Hughes School of Communication

Hannah-Jones told CBS This Morning on Tuesday that she will become a member of the historically black university's Cathy Hughes School of Communication

Speaking to CBS This Morning, she called it 'a very difficult decision, not a decision I wanted to make.'  

She said: 'This was a position that since the 1980s came with tenure. The Knight Chairs are designed for professional journalists who are working in the field to come into academia. 

'Every other Chair before me, who also happened to be white, received that position with tenure. I was denied that.

'To be denied it to only have that vote occur on the last possible day, at the last possible moment, after threat of legal action, after weeks of protest, after it became a national scandal, it's just not something that I want anymore.' 

She added: 'It's pretty clear that my tenure was not taken up because of political opposition, because of discriminatory views against my viewpoints, and I believe my race and my gender.' 

Faculties of the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media said Tuesday they were 'disappointed, but not surprised' at Hannah Jones's decision to turn down the school's offer. 

Howard has also recruited the author Ta-Nehisi Coates, who won a National Book Award for 'Between the World and Me,' which explores violence against black people and white supremacy in America. Both have been given MacArthur 'genius' grants for their writings.

Their appointments are being supported by nearly $20 million donated by Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation, as well as by an anonymous donor, to support Howard's continued education of and investment in black journalists, the university said.

'It is my pleasure to welcome to Howard two of today's most respected and influential journalists,' Howard President Wayne A. I. Frederick said in a news release. 'At such a critical time for race relations in our country, it is vital that we understand the role of journalism in steering our national conversation and social progress.'

UNC had announced in April that Hannah-Jones - who won the Pulitzer Prize for her work on The New York Times Magazine's 1619 Project focusing on America's history of slavery - would be joining the journalism school's faculty. It said she would take up the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at UNC in July.

But the news was swiftly condemned by conservative political groups with links to the UNC Board of Governors which oversees the state university's 16-campus system, according to NC Policy Watch

Among the loudest critics was the The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, which argued that Hannah-Jones is unqualified for the position because her 1619 Project was 'unfactual and biased'. 

The conservative watchdog group said her hiring signaled 'a degradation of journalistic standards, which should deter any serious student from applying to the journalism school'. 

Hannah-Jones announced Tuesday she will become a member of the historically black university's (pictured) Cathy Hughes School of Communication

Hannah-Jones announced Tuesday she will become a member of the historically black university's (pictured) Cathy Hughes School of Communication

One week ago, trustees at UNC-Chapel Hill approved Hannah-Jones' tenure, capping weeks of tension that began when a board member halted the process over concerns about her teaching credentials because she did not come from a 'traditional academic-type background'

One week ago, trustees at UNC-Chapel Hill approved Hannah-Jones' tenure, capping weeks of tension that began when a board member halted the process over concerns about her teaching credentials because she did not come from a 'traditional academic-type background'

The appointment was also apposed by millionaire newspaper tycoon Walter Hussman Jr, 75, who donated $25 million to his alma mater in 2019, and who UNC's journalism department is named after.

'I worry about the controversy of tying the UNC journalism school to the 1619 project,' he wrote to Susan King, dean at the Hussman School of Journalism.

He added: 'Based on her own words, many will conclude she is trying to push an agenda, and they will assume she is manipulating historical facts to support it.' 

Hannah-Jones' tenure application was halted, and she was offered a five-year-contract as officials said she did not come from a 'traditional academic-type background'.

Trustee Charles Duckett, who vets lifetime appointments, wanted more time to consider her qualifications, university leaders had said. 

But Hannah-Jones' attorneys announced in late June that she would not report for work without tenure. 

When the latest vote was taken Wednesday, Duckett voted to approve her tenure application. 

Demonstrators are removed from a closed session meeting of the UNC-Chapel Hill trustees Wednesday as the board prepared to discuss and vote on tenure for distinguished journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones

Demonstrators are removed from a closed session meeting of the UNC-Chapel Hill trustees Wednesday as the board prepared to discuss and vote on tenure for distinguished journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones

They regathered just outside the room, using a bullhorn to shout their frustrations at police who they said pushed them out of the room

They regathered just outside the room, using a bullhorn to shout their frustrations at police who they said pushed them out of the room

Officials had reportedly not communicated the process with the public - which frustrated the demonstrated who were asked to leave the room

Officials had reportedly not communicated the process with the public - which frustrated the demonstrated who were asked to leave the room

The students who had protested outside of the meeting had chanted 'No Justice! No Peace'

The students who had protested outside of the meeting had chanted 'No Justice! No Peace'

Police are seen confronting protesters who descended on Wednesday's closed-door meeting

Police are seen confronting protesters who descended on Wednesday's closed-door meeting

The previous decision by trustees to halt Hannah-Jones' tenure submission sparked a torrent of criticism, including from black students who claimed they had been neglected. 

The school's board of trustees at had gone into a closed-door session to discuss her appointment soon after the meeting began, which is a standard practice when discussing personnel matters, according to The Daily Tar Heel

Officials had reportedly not communicated the process with the public - which frustrated the demonstrated who were asked to leave the room.

Hannah-Jones wrote in a tweet that the confusion led to black students getting 'shoved and punched' instead of attempts to de-escalate the situation. 

'It should have been communicated how this meeting would go, that tenure proceedings are always held in closed session, and an attempt made to de-escalate.

 Instead Black students were shoved and punched because they were confused about the process. This is not right,' Hannah-Jones tweeted. 

She added: 'To be clear: My legal team did not request the closed session. The closed session is the normal procedure for tenure votes and our desire was, for the first time in this process, to be treated by the [board of trustees] like every other tenure candidate.' 

Protesters and interested parties gather outside the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill on Wednesday where the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees voted on tenure for Nikole Hannah-Jones

Protesters and interested parties gather outside the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill on Wednesday where the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees voted on tenure for Nikole Hannah-Jones

A small group of protesters refused to leave the meeting room and police attempted to usher them out

A small group of protesters refused to leave the meeting room and police attempted to usher them out

Deborah Dwyer, a doctoral candidate, holds a sign while gathered with fellow students and alumni on the steps of Carroll Hall, where the UNC-Chapel Hill Hussman School of Journalism and Media is located

Deborah Dwyer, a doctoral candidate, holds a sign while gathered with fellow students and alumni on the steps of Carroll Hall, where the UNC-Chapel Hill Hussman School of Journalism and Media is located

The students who had protested outside of the meeting had chanted 'No Justice! No Peace,' The State reported.

Julia Clark, the vice president of the UNC Black Student Movement, told the outlet that an officer who told her to move back had 'felt threatened.' 

'Be afraid,' Clark said. 'Be afraid. I want you to be scared, because we are scared on this campus every day.'

The organization's president Taliajah 'Teddy' Vann told The State she was frustrated that the board went into closed session and would not vote in public.

'What are you hiding?' Vann said, according to the outlet.

She added: 'Y'all think y'all are safe hiding behind those doors? You're not. Because our voices will be heard regardless.' 

Hannah-Jones wrote in a tweet that the confusion led to black students getting 'shoved and punched' instead of attempts to de-escalate the situation

Hannah-Jones wrote in a tweet that the confusion led to black students getting 'shoved and punched' instead of attempts to de-escalate the situation

'1619 Project' creator talks about how it all began on The View
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Hannah-Jones cited political interference by conservatives because of her work on The 1619 Project.  

'I went through the official tenure process. My peers in academia said that I was deserving of tenure. These board members are political appointees who decided that I wasn't.'

She noted that UNC-Chapel Hill is her alma mater.

'I love the university. The university has given me a lot and I wanted to give back. It was embarrassing to be the first person to be denied tenure. It was embarrassing and I didn't want this to become a public scandal. I didn't want to drag my university through the pages of newspapers because I was the first and the only Black person in that position to be denied tenure.'

On going to Howard instead, she referred to her childhood during which she was bused to white schools:

'I spent my entire life proving that I belonged in elite white spaces that were not built for Black people. I got a lot of clarity through what happened with the University of North Carolina. I decided I didn't want to do that anymore.'  


Jen Psaki says Howard University students are 'lucky to have' 1619 Project founder Nikole Hannah-Jones as a faculty member after she rejected UNC's tenure offer Jen Psaki says Howard University students are 'lucky to have' 1619 Project founder Nikole Hannah-Jones as a faculty member after she rejected UNC's tenure offer Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 06:16 Rating: 5

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