Howard Hires Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ta-Nehisi Coates
UNC's loss is the nation's most prestigious HBCU's gain.
WaPo (“Nikole Hannah-Jones to join Howard faculty after UNC tenure controversy“):
Journalists Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ta-Nehisi Coates are joining Howard University’s faculty, school officials announced Tuesday in a major recruiting victory for the private institution in the nation’s capital. It was a simultaneous setback for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to lose Hannah-Jones after a long and remarkably contentious effort to recruit her.
The surprising development came less than a week after trustees for UNC-Chapel Hill voted to award tenure to Hannah-Jones. Initially, the public university hired her as a professor without the job-protection status. But its board of trustees approved tenure for her on Wednesday, after faculty members and students at Chapel Hill protested that she had been mistreated.
In an interview Tuesday on “CBS This Morning,” Hannah-Jones said she would not join the UNC faculty. “Very difficult decision,” she told Gayle King. “Not a decision I wanted to make.” The Pulitzer Prize winner said she believed a decision about tenure for her at UNC was delayed because of political opposition to her work and discrimination against her as a Black woman.
“It’s not my job to heal the University of North Carolina,” she said. “That’s the job of the people in power who created the situation in the first place.”
Top university officials did not immediately reply to a message seeking comment.
Susan King, dean of the UNC-Chapel Hill journalism school, who had championed tenure for Hannah-Jones, said she was disappointed to lose her to another university. “We wish her nothing but deep success and the hope that UNC can learn from this long tenure drama about how we must change as a community of scholars in order to grow as a campus that lives by its stated values of being a diverse and welcoming place for all,” King said in a statement.
Folks on my Twitter feed see this as a big embarrassment for UNC but, frankly, it’s more of a win for Howard than anything else. It has just tired two of the most important voices in journalism and not only further cemented its legacy as the premier Historically Black University in the countryl but simultaneously moved the Phylicia Rashad controversy off the front burner.
For Carolina, being rebuffed in this way is mildly embarrassing but it will be fine. It remains a “public Ivy” and one of the most prestigious universities in the country. And, in the short term at least, the board members who opposed granting Jones tenure—and, presumably, would have preferred not to hire her at all—get exactly what they wanted all along.
Still, while I remain rather bemused that universities, let alone elite ones, are hiring people without terminal degrees or a record of scholarly publication—or, indeed, having previously served as full-time academics—as tenured professors, it’s apparently a thing in non-academic departments. Given that the journalism faculty enthusiastically supported hiring Jones as a tenured, endowed chair, it’s simply a bad look to have a politically-appointed board of non-academics override them.
First, this twitter thread is really a must-read analysis from a reporter’s perspective on the entire thing: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1412388863985819653.html
James, you have to let this one go. In part because especially in journalism, Nikole Hannah-Jones has a proven track record of publications — just not traditional journal articles. Her record of “feeding the beast” as they say in the business is more than worthy to teach and earn tenure (that’s before we get to winning a Pulitizer). And again, Masters’s Degrees are considered terminal degrees in the areas both of them are teaching (especially with both of their publishing records). To some degree, PhD’s in J-Schools (typically Communication PhDs) still remain the exception in many cases.
@mattbernius: Yes, I get that things are different in the non-academic parts of the academy, I just find it odd. Coates is a college dropout (although he reportedly plans to finish) but he’s certainly more than qualified to teach creative writing. Indeed, I find his record more impressive than NHJ’s.
UNC’s loss is Howard’s gain. Now if somehow they can get rid of Phylicia Rashad.
Terminal degree folks are nigh unemployable outside of academia imho.
Incorporated too many bad habits encouraged by their context and circumstance.
Not a hard/fast rule, but as a general rule it applies more often than not. We had a guy who was tasked to identify mortgagors more likely than not to refinance and to bite on a spicy refinance offer. He was a data sponge. He needed to be corrected a time or two on allowed racial proxies per OCC and corp legal guidelines.
Frankly, it was great training ground for new hires. You need to rationalize and consolidate disparate data sources. Work with partnered DBMs for space and CPU cycles. Integration, correction. Super good skills to acquire soon.
Hard fast rules – witness Husker Du and Land Speed Record.
Not a great many professors of creative writing or literary journalism have Ph.D.s, unless they have them in literature. They are, however, successful and generally well-regarded traditionally published* writers of fiction, poetry, non-fiction, stage plays, and screenplays.
I see no reason why the standard should be different for a journalism prof. It’s not about theory; it’s about a practical skill with immediate practical application.
* I say “traditionally published” because any bozo can self-publish any kind of semi-literate crap and call him or herself an author.
Rashad’s unmuted, tone-deaf response to Cosby’s release is every Uni’s PR nightmare.
A highly-touted honorary scholar engaging in behavior antithetical to the stated mission and purpose.
To be fair, she’s mischaracterizing a tad. The opposition to her receiving tenure stemmed, I’m told, from a wealthy donor (and newspaper publisher) – the one for whom UNC’s School of Journalism is named, no less – who asserted that he had issues with her brand of journalism and didn’t want her there. They were caught between her and potentially putting a $25 million pledged gift at risk.
She’s essentially asserting facts not in evidence here (which sort of goes to the heart of his objections to her in the first place).
Hmmm, by these standards I should be eligible for tenure at some place like Eastern Tennessee State University. My wife could qualify for something slightly better, say, Troy University – she can write real purty.
UNC – Chapel Hill had already botched it badly and insultingly.
We advance this job offer. After consultation with our politically prominent and financially influential donors we withdraw the position.
Much messy shit happens…. Cultural political shitstorms.
UNC: We are delighted to accept you back. Our offer is un – rescinded. You are welcome here.
I thought that we had got beyond gratuitously compliant and gracious bullshit back in the Lew Alcindor / Cassius Clay days decades past.
At the end of the day, money talks louder than any other considerations. Just how it is …
Dr. Joyner, a quibble with your header: Howard is not the Nation’s most prestigious HBCU. That distinction falls to Morehouse College. I should know- I’m a Morehouse alum. 😉
Chapel Hill produced two of the most bracing bands I’d encountered thereto – Superchunk and Archers Of Loaf.
Investigate. Superchunk – Slack Motherfucker. Archers Of Loaf – Harnessed In Slums. Both deserve a deep dive.
Bwa ha ha hahahahahahahahaha.
Alas, no, we’re not.
@flat earth luddite:
I have expectations of post – 1965 America that fails often. One of these days it might be true. I wish for the day.
@flat earth luddite:
Black America is reminded constantly to be gracious and compliant. It is insultingly patronizing.
At the end of the day, money talks louder than any other considerations. Just how it is … @de stijl:
You’re moving the goalposts / layering external issues onto this. His stated objection to her concerned how she operates as a journalist and the journalistic standards he wanted the school to preserve / advance. He has very traditional, old schools ideas about how journalism is to be practiced. She very much disagrees. They’re both entitled to their opinions, but at the end of the day he’s backing his up with cold, hard cash to which he’s entitled to attach as many conditions as he wishes. UNC could certainly make a de facto choice to reject the money, but you can’t really have both. They had to prioritize and make a choice.
You’re moving the goalposts / layering external issues onto this. His stated objection to her concerned how she operates as a journalist and the journalistic standards he wanted the school to preserve / advance, which he believes she does not adhere to. He has very traditional, old schools ideas about how journalism is to be practiced. She very much disagrees. They’re both entitled to their opinions, but at the end of the day he’s backing his up with cold, hard cash – to which he’s entitled to attach as many conditions as he wishes. UNC could certainly make a de facto choice to reject the money, but you can’t really have both. They had to prioritize and make a choice.
Honestly, it depends on the field. In the area of qualitative and quantitative research, having the PhD definitely provides a leg up in getting hired in many cases. But this may be a bit of an outlier area.
@Michael Reynolds: “Hmmm, by these standards I should be eligible for tenure at some place like Eastern Tennessee State University. My wife could qualify for something slightly better, say, Troy University – she can write real purty.”
If you can achieve a certain level of national fame, then you could.
@HarvardLaw92: “You’re moving the goalposts / layering external issues onto this. His stated objection to her concerned how she operates as a journalist and the journalistic standards he wanted the school to preserve / advance, which he believes she does not adhere to. He has very traditional, old schools ideas about how journalism is to be practiced. She very much disagrees. They’re both entitled to their opinions, but at the end of the day he’s backing his up with cold, hard cash – to which he’s entitled to attach as many conditions as he wishes. UNC could certainly make a de facto choice to reject the money, but you can’t really have both. They had to prioritize and make a choice.”
The whole point is that donors should have only a very limited input as to whom the university hires.
As for his ‘standards’ – yes, I’ m sure that he said what he said.
In the end, it’s still ‘university subordinates their standards to a donor’s whim’.
Here’s a beautiful summary from
** read the whole thing**
“Hussman did not work his way from the Chapel Hill News to the New York Times. His reporting and writing haven’t earned him Peabody, Polk, Pulitzer and National Magazine Awards. His name isn’t on UNC-Chapel Hill’s journalism school because of his staggering reporting achievements. “
TNC is a win for Howard, but I think NHJ is a loss. Based on her conduct in connection with the 1609 Project, her journalistic ethics seem questionable at best.
Here is her comment from Twitter:
“Why would I want to teach at a university whose top leadership chose to remain silent, to refuse transparency, to fail to publicly advocate that I be treated like every other Knight Chair before me?”
@HarvardLaw92: “UNC could certainly make a de facto choice to reject the money, but you can’t really have both. They had to prioritize and make a choice.”
And they made the wrong one, from the POV of academic freedom and quality.
@Barry: Dude inherited a corporation and now uses money to throw his weight around and create collateral damage. Where have I seen that before…
@HarvardLaw92: “His stated objection to her concerned how she operates as a journalist and the journalistic standards he wanted the school to preserve / advance, which he believes she does not adhere to.”
Yes, those were his stated objections. You are certainly free to choose to believe they were his real objections as long as that makes you happy.
@HarvardLaw92: “They’re both entitled to their opinions, but at the end of the day he’s backing his up with cold, hard cash – to which he’s entitled to attach as many conditions as he wishes.”
So it’s your belief that someone who donates to a university should have the right to determine what is taught there and by whom?
@Teve: “Dude inherited a corporation and now uses money to throw his weight around and create collateral damage.”
Well, then, obviously he should be determining hiring and curriculum at any school to which he gives his money. Don’t you recognize your betters when you see them?
Which happens more often than anyone outside of HL92 is interested in acknowledging, alas. Universities and colleges–and lower schools as far as that goes (particularly private ones)–are businesses in very significant ways and must conform to the expectations levied by that condition.
What’s being lost here is that this isn’t about dollars and cents or qualifications – it’s about a GOP-appointed board doing Tucker Carlson’s work for him.
As UNC faculty, I can safely say that she is 100% correct here.
Agreed. But $25 million for a school with a $5 billion endowment is very cheap for the reputational damage in kowtowing to a Rupert Murdoch-wannabe. And in the end, no one in the University did much other than take his call. The BoT, on the other hand, were more than happy to do his bidding, because it lined up with their politics..
She was able to raise $20 million in a few weeks for Howard, if the issue is that money talks, UNC has poorly listening skills…
I get that. It sounds super-disparaging and dismissive.
In my milieu PHD+ folks provided little to no value and were often road bumbs. Fuck your theory, I am judged on creating a integrated dataset in two weeks with readable columns and rows for a project.
Integration is damned difficult based on data typing and DBMS type and version.
Plus, nailing every row of every column was counterproductive. You could out-source name to address reconciliation from a dozen vendors if you had typed and rationalized addresses properly.
A productive skill is being able to combine two disparate sets into one in a manner that you can apply and correctly assign third party data to your internal address data.
2 into 1 is easy. We were routinely faced with 6 into 1. And addresses are the easy bit: data integration 101.
We had on-staff data analysts who invariably provided a third normal form solution to every problem years after it had been proven that a 3N schema sucks with certain preferred schemas and is counterproductive with deep indexing DBMS’s.
The DA group provided us with pretty logical 3NF diagrams nevertheless. Actually, logical data models are actually fairly handy.
I didn’t express an opinion about the desirability of that. I acknowledged it as being reality. The reality is that academic freedom is basically nostalgia at this point. These are de facto businesses now, and money talks.
Howard gets $20 million it probably needs, and UNC gets to keep its $25 million. Sounds like everybody wins to me.
And in a perfect world, we’d have world peace too. That’s isn’t the world we live in. You’re being naive.
Like Gamergate was supposedly about journalistic integrity and quickly devolved into misogynistic bullshit forthwith.
It was never about integrity. It was score settling first and foremost.
Against perceived feminist and anti-racist and pro-queer activists. Who wanted representation.
I’ve spent most of my adult life in colleges and universities, and anyone (obviously not you, HL92), who thinks or believes that major donors don’t have a big say in hiring decisions (or which students get accepted) is…naive. Jared Kushner wasn’t Harvard material, but a $2.5 million donation (paltry, actually, by Harvard standards) from Charles Kushner got him admitted.
As a general rule, the crappier a school is, the more it will do what the donors tell it to do.
Barring evidence to the contrary (and no, editorial pages aren’t sufficient evidence), he gets the benefit of the doubt. I’ve read quite a few pieces from people ranting about his politics, but I honestly have yet to see anything substantive questioning his journalistic ethics. You’re free to jump to conclusions based on something not in evidence as long as that makes you happy.
Unfortunately for UNC, this is going to be missed by a heckuva lot of people. This whole thing reeked of the planation mentality, with wealthy white dilettantes meeting behind closed doors to keep that uppity black woman down. It makes the school look small and ugly, a place where the faculty, no matter how prestigious, needs to yessir/nossir their masters. This will hurt them as they try to recruit first-class faculty. And, sure, no one in the administration took the call from this jumped-up twit ahead of time, but once their betters started making their wishes known, they shut up, sat down and bowed their heads.
No, the reputational damage is nowhere near worth a paltry $25M.
@HarvardLaw92: “And in a perfect world, we’d have world peace too. That’s isn’t the world we live in. You’re being naive.”
I know what I am, but what are you?
I find the whole idea that you have to have a Masters Degree or PhD to teach is somewhat ridiculous when it comes to the arts, and writing is an art. I thnk it’s important for credentialing purposes for fields like Law, Medicine, Engineering, and other STEM fields, for sure. But for music, writing, photography, film, painting, meh…..
I don’t even have a bachelor’s degree, but I know I can teach film and TV production better than most people teaching it today because of my 38 years of experiences in the business. How many film school teachers have over 100 credits in film and TV? How many film school teachers have worked on film and tv projects in 20 states, and 14 different countrie? How many film school teachers have even stepped foot on an actual professional film or television set? Or had to deal with difficult actors who don’t want to do what they’re hired to do? Or had to deal with studio execs who are daft?
Who’s the better teacher for film and tv writing? The guy with a PhD who knows writing theory very well? Or a guy like wr, who may not have a PhD but who has over 200 produced credits as a writer for different studios, networks, and producers?
I’ll go with the person with experience over the person who strictly has the education.
In fact, I advise young people to NOT go to film school. I advise them to go to college or university and study a field they love (English, Math, Poli-Sci, Law, etc) and then go find work on a film or TV show. You’ll learn more in six months working on a TV Series or Feature film than all four years of film school. And I won’t have to deal with the BS they taught you at film school that doesn’t apply in the real world..
@HarvardLaw92: “Barring evidence to the contrary (and no, editorial pages aren’t sufficient evidence), he gets the benefit of the doubt. ”
I would say ‘who is being naive here?’, but I know better. You are being disingenuous.
@EddieInCA: FWIW, it is wholly legitimate to take into consideration work in an applied field as a means of certifying someone to teach at the collegiate level. It just depends on the field.
That is, I concur with what you are saying and say so in the context of actually having to sign off on such things professionally.
Of course, it very much depends on the field (and what is being taught).
And while the J-school is not in my College, I can very much see hiring and tenuring someone like NHJ given her credentials/background.
I imagine a Film School would give Quentin Tarantino a teaching job despite the fact that he dropped out of high school.
What, if any, were repercussions on Rashad?
I could countenance measured remarks, but hers were not measured and extremely poorly chosen and could be easily construed as pro-rapist. Words a leader of young people should not choose to share on twitter.
Has there been push-back? If not, why not?
@EddieInCA: “I find the whole idea that you have to have a Masters Degree or PhD to teach is somewhat ridiculous when it comes to the arts, and writing is an art. I thnk it’s important for credentialing purposes for fields like Law, Medicine, Engineering, and other STEM fields, for sure. But for music, writing, photography, film, painting, meh…..”
Couldn’t agree more. I left UCLA without finishing my MFA because people started paying me to write. And while I’ve been teaching grad students at several universities for more than a decade, there were a bunch of teaching jobs that were closed to me because I didn’t have the terminal degree….
I do remember giving one young writer her first professional writing job — staff writer on a new series. Her previous gig? Harvard had hired her as a lecturer on screenwriting…
(She was great, by the way. No slight to her — but to that great institution that valued her degree far more than any actual experience…)
@EddieInCA: Good advice for your field. 44 years ago, I graduated with a degree in Music History, and in those days, people who were performers became performers by being hired to perform, but the climate was just starting to change and I’d been advised to go to conservatory for graduate study so that I could become a performer. (My oboe teacher, on the other hand, told me the truth–I wasn’t good enough–but I already knew that.) Fast forward a few years. The last time I checked my 2 alma maters (one regional state school, one private highly regarded school that an evangelical version of Joyner might call a “Christian Ivy”–don’t laugh, I saw such a designation for this school back in the 90s [but yes, I smirked too]) all of the faculty save one non tenured instructor-rank faculty member had PhDs, DMus.s or DMAs including the part-time faculty. I’ve not been to many concerts recently, but every guest soloist lists a DMA or a Doctorate in Performance on his or her program bio. (I hope that’s an anomaly and not a trend, but…)
It’s a different world than where I come from. I hope your field continues to avoid it.
A friend of mine had a similar experience, only with journalism. He got a B.A. in English, enrolled in grad school (I think with the intention of eventually getting a Ph.D.), and took a part-time job reporting for a local alternate weekly for extra income. Loved it, had a talent for it. Quit grad school and never looked back.
@EddieInCA: “In fact, I advise young people to NOT go to film school. I advise them to go to college or university and study a field they love (English, Math, Poli-Sci, Law, etc) and then go find work on a film or TV show.”
That’s my advice for undergraduates. To me it was always the difference between being Brian DePalma, who knew movies, and Francis Ford Coppola, who knew movies but also knew art and music and literature and so much more. As much as I love Phantom of the Paradise and Obsession, there’s a huge gulf between DePalma’s best and The Godfather.
To me, grad school is different. Maybe that’s partially because it’s where I teach, but also because it’s where I met exactly the teacher I needed at the moment I needed him. Without Richard Walter, I don’t know if I ever would have reached the level I needed to be at. But as I always tell my students, a graduate program is really just a lens — the student has to bring all the energy and drive and talent, and we can help them learn how to focus it all…
Some people have no use for grad school and will be better off trying to get a PA job. Some people will thrive in an MFA program and find their talents. No one rule for everyone.
@Just nutha ignint cracker: Innumeracy rears its ugly head. With my degree granted in 1975, my story should start “47 years ago.”
In 1991, Quentin would call my bosses weekly, asking for a directing slot on “Tales From The Crypt”. He never got one. We laugh about it now. A year later he did “Reservoir Dogs” and the rest is history.
That dude has undeniable talent and is undeniably an asshole. The movie business is a case study in a bastard form of credentialism.
Slangs about the n-word too freely for a white boy. Besides that I find his product thrilling. A lot to admire.
What’s your take on his career?
It’s been fascinating to see and enjoy. I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed every single one of his films. He’s an old school filmmaker. In my opinion, he belongs in a very special category of Writer/Directors: Coen Bros, Stanley Kubrick, Akira Kurosawa, Francis Coppola, Billy Wilder, maybe Chris Nolan. These are special filmmakers who always have/had something to say, even if you didn’t agree with it.
I only interacted with him almost 30 years ago, so I have no idea how he evolved personally, but back then, he was just a g0-getter who knew more about movies, writers, directors and actors, than anyone I have ever known, before or since.
I get the old – school filmmaker, but a as a syncretist in my take.
Plugs bits and pieces of movies he likes into blender and hits ON. The results are an amalgamation with shout-outs to his influences.
I do appreciate his honest take on his influences. This is my Kurosawa. This is my Wilder. But he does go off the farm often and inventively. No one I know would dip into Michael Madsen’s backstory like QT did in Kill Bill v1. Or Oren Ishii.
Just stop the white boy n-word shit use please.
@EddieInCA: He was super nice about recommending appropriate films to my friend’s elderly Catholic aunt – the video store where he worked was her local store.
“I thnk it’s important for credentialing purposes for fields like Law, Medicine, Engineering, and other STEM fields, for sure. But for music, writing, photography, film, painting, meh…..”
Interestingly enough, I know several professors who are fully tenured with MS degrees in the engineering field – mechanical; industrial & systems; aerospace. Engineering likes PhDs but if you’re ABD +industrial experience, or if you had a great career in industry and then came to teach after retiring or as a career change, you’re welcomed – industrial experience is prized.
@EddieInCA: “In 1991, Quentin would call my bosses weekly, asking for a directing slot on “Tales From The Crypt”.”
I don’t know who you worked for on Tales, but two of the showrunners — Adler and Katz, as I recall — gave me one of my favorite Hollywood moments. My partner and I were going to meet with Roger Corman, who had a deal to make a sitcom version of Little Shop of Horrors for the old USA network. We were waiting outside the office — it was in the USA offices in Century City — while Adler and Katz were pitching for the same job. They were bragging about Tales, and one of them said “Yeah, it’s a high budget show, but we try to keep a low-budget sensibility.”
This was followed by one of Roger’s trademark pauses, and then he said in his inimitable style “So you’re saying you spend a lot of money to make a product that could be made for a little?”
What followed was a lot of stammering and a quick end to the meeting. Needless to say they didn’t get the job. And in fact, we did, leading to a great experience with Roger… and unfortunately not a great one with the network…
Great story. And totally believeable
They were my two bosses. Love them. Gil is in Vancouver, living the good life. And Alan is still writing and creating. Good guys both.
And it was low budget, just not Roger low.
Two more great songs outta Chapel Hill.
Superchunk’s Seed Toss and Archers of Loaf Web In Front
@EddieInCA: @Steven L. Taylor: @wr: It absolutely makes sense to hire people who have excelled in a field to teach at the collegiate level. The performing arts are the most obvious example of that but it happens even in my field. I have no heartburn at all with hiring someone who has years of experience in government to teach graduate courses in the subject. Nor does it bother me in the slightest that Ta-Nehisi Coates didn’t finish his undergraduate degree. I just think it’s weird to hire someone without a long history of teaching—which is simply a different skill set than excellence in a craft—with tenure. NHJ has a reputation as an excellent mentor, so I suspect she’ll be just fine. But it just seems odd to make a lifetime commitment without at least a few years in the classroom first.
Sure, but they’ve been doing this for almost 40 years now with no complaints. And you and I only know about it now because they selected someone who is not a white man and the goalposts were suddenly moved by the board of trustees..
There’s just no evidence for this. NHJ is a controversialist who has made a name for herself for being exceedingly good at it. It’s not surprising that the school’s namesake found her work objectionable and, well, objected. It’s really a bad look, considering that trustee approval is generally pro forma, but it’s not evidence of sexism or racism. And, indeed, she was the first person hired under the new mission, Race and Investigative Journalism (it had previously been Digital Advertising).
I am not claiming to know the hearts of the BoT, but what I stated are the actual facts. NHJ is the first black woman selected for this type of position. The BoT claimed that they declined to vote based on her qualifications. Not over the controversy. Now we know that they were getting calls from a certain donor, but the BoT has always acted as a rubber stamp. I have been told that a full list of every tenure rejection pre-HNJ ever made by the BoT would be a blank sheet of paper. This is absolutely moving the goalposts.