Nikole Hannah-Jones, the mastermind behind the New York Times’ infamous 1619 Project, has been hired by the Hussman School of Journalism at the University of North Carolina. Her credentials for the position are very weak and the way she has responded to the voluminous criticism of her work on the 1619 Project bespeaks the mindset of a zealot, not of a scholar.
How did this happen? Did the university trustees consider Hannah-Jones and decide that she would indeed be an asset to the institution?
In today’s Martin Center article, Shannon Watkins looks at the process that in this case (and others) has failed to screen out poor choices. The Board of Trustees is supposed to have the final say, but, in this instance, the process was somehow circumvented. It appears that the Board designated its authority in this instance.
Watkins writes, “In other words, trustees can in effect give away their authority to the chancellor or the chancellor’s ‘designees.’ And who might the ‘designees’ of the chancellor be? It is not clear. The Martin Center requested a list of the names the board may delegate authority to in such matters, but the UNC system did not provide a response as of the date of publication.”
Since the point of requiring approval from the board is to avoid faculty hires that are apt to lead to trouble, current UNC policy obviously needs to be tightened up.
This case is reminiscent of one seven years ago at the University of Illinois, where the trustees, at the urging of the chancellor, refused to approve the contract offer to Steven Salaita, whose statements about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict aroused great concern over his fitness for a faculty position.
Watkins concludes, “The Board of Governors should act swiftly to amend all relevant policies so that trustees are required to review every proposed hire. Trustees shouldn’t have the option to delegate their authority on matters of such central importance to the university. Otherwise, the public should expect to see more ‘Hannah-Jones’ hires in the future.”
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