Trustees at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill voted Wednesday to accept the tenure application of 1619 Project founder Nikole Hannah-Jones - a week after she refused to teach at the school claiming that a 'powerful donor' had blocked her from the lifetime professorship. 

The board accepted the application with a vote of 9-4 at a three-hour special meeting that included a closed-door session following weeks of tension that began when a board member halted the process over questions about her teaching credentials.

An ugly brawl erupted as a small group of protesters stormed into the session and refused to leave the area when police attempted to usher them out. 

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


The board of trustees went into the closed-door session 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.

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

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.' 

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.'

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 protesters only reportedly calmed down when Lamar Richards, the school's student body president and a member of the Board of Trustees, called one of the protesters and explained why the tenure discussion would not be in public.

Richards tweeted shortly after the phone call: 'The reason for this is crucial because depending on any outcome of this meeting we do not want there to be any contest made that could potentially impact/ interfere w/ stuff in the future surrounding this issue.'

'Our fight is for her to be treated the same as every other candidate,' he added.

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

The university announced in April that Hannah-Jones, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her work on the New York Times Magazine's 1619 Project that focused on the country's history of slavery, would be joining the journalism school´s faculty as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism in July with a five-year contract.

Before Wednesday, the school had said little about why tenure was not offered, but a prominent donor revealed he had emailed university leaders challenging her work as 'highly contentious and highly controversial' before the process was halted.

Hannah-Jones attorneys announced last week that she would not report for work without tenure, prompting a call from Student Body President Lamar Richards, who's also a trustee, for the board to convene a special meeting.

Earlier in the year, Hannah-Jones´ tenure application was halted because she did not 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.


The school has said little about why tenure was not offered, but a prominent donor revealed 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.

The meeting comes a day before Hannah-Jones was to start at the journalism school. Her attorneys announced last week that she would not report for work without tenure.

Last week, Richards requested that the board convene a special meeting no later than Wednesday to vote on tenure for Hannah-Jones. Six board members must agree to a request for a special meeting to take place, according to Richards.

The decision by trustees earlier this year to halt Hannah-Jones´ tenure submission sparked a torrent of criticism from within the community. It ultimately revealed a depth of frustration over the school´s failure to answer longstanding concerns about the treatment of Black faculty, staff and students.

Several hundred UNC students gathered near the chancellor's office last Friday to demand that trustees reconsider tenure for Hannah-Jones.

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