The Board of Trustees for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will hold a special meeting Wednesday, reportedly to vote on tenure for journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones.
The board’s Monday announcement about a special meeting included no details about the agenda. But quoting two unnamed trustees, NC Policy Watch reported that the board will hold a vote on tenure for Hannah-Jones.
Lamar Richards, Chapel Hill’s student body president and therefore an ex officio trustee, petitioned the board last week to hold a special meeting to discuss the Hannah-Jones case. He would have needed five other board members to make similar requests to force such a meeting, but it’s unclear if that’s why the meeting was scheduled. The board chair can call a special meeting at any time.
In a 180 from its previous stance on the Hannah-Jones case, the board is reportedly eager to hold a vote before Thursday. That’s when six trustees, including board chair Richard Stevens, will cycle off the board and a group of new trustees will join.
Before this week, the board’s stance on the Hannah-Jones case was to say little to nothing publicly. Many faculty members had been hoping that the new board iteration would take up Hannah-Jones’s case at its first scheduled meeting on July 14.
Why the board’s sudden interest in Hannah-Jones’s tenure bid? Faculty members on Monday floated some theories on background, including that the board is hoping Hannah-Jones will ultimately decide to teach elsewhere, and that it can grant her tenure only to repair some of the damage it’s done. Another scenario is one in which the trustees who most oppose Hannah-Jones’s tenure vote can block her bid while they still have a chance. These are only guesses. Hannah-Jones hasn’t said whether she will teach at Chapel Hill, just that she won’t be joining the faculty on July 1, as planned, and that she wouldn’t do so at all without tenure.
Hannah-Jones’s legal team disclosed last week that she’d been offered a UNC faculty job with the promise of tenure and a scheduled start date in January of this year, only to see the board decline to vote on her tenure case twice. She accepted a non-tenure-track job in February before she understood why the board acted as it did.