(August 2) University of North Carolina alumni showed admirable savvy in their near-successful effort to prevent mock-historian Nikole Hannah-Jones from being rewarded with a tenured position. Alumni have every right to use their influence to affect university policies, and in this case, they did it to save their school an embarrassing disgrace.

Hannah-Jones was the lead writer of The 1619 Project, a leftist screed that appeared in the New York Times masquerading as history. The project’s goal was to “reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the United States’ national narrative.” The final product of this effort was rightly attacked by numerous distinguished historians for its hideous inaccuracies. Major corrections were ultimately printed that undermined its very premise.

In the end, the 1619 Project was neither good journalism nor real history.

Nobody who conducted such slipshod, tendentious research has any business teaching students at any level. Yet, UNC hired Hannah-Jones for a position teaching Race and Investigative Journalism. After early objections from its board, the writer originally was not given tenure along with the endowed position. The board later made the mistake of offering her tenure after national controversy ensued.

Fortunately for the Chapel Hill student body, the would-be journalist saved the school from its own bad decision by rejecting the position in favor of a similar faculty spot at Howard University. (It’s unclear why Howard’s students merit such punishment.)

Clearly, though, if alumni donors had not raised a fuss, Hannah-Jones would have sailed into a tenure-track position despite having never taught at a university before. New reporting by the Raleigh News & Observer and Fox News sheds light on those alumni efforts….

[Later in the column] Obviously, all this alumni involvement raises questions about the interplay between academic freedom and academic standards. However, what should not be at issue is the right and even duty of alumni to weigh in on behalf of standards.

A university serves more than just its current students…. [The full column is at this link.]

A further note: To be clear, what I argue for has nothing to do with limiting academic freedom. This isn’t about different “opinions.” This is about academic standards. The 1619 Project was repeatedly, shamefully, materially false by objective standards, a situation attested to by scholars right, center, and left. As Hannah-Jones lacks academic credentials and as her journalism — the reason for the university position — woefully failed, she is just not qualified for the job. — Quin


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