University of North Carolina Board of Trustees Letter to Nikole Hannah-Jones

Ms. Jones,

We have reviewed the materials you submitted for tenure review. Unfortunately, we cannot offer you tenure at this time. The members of this committee take this work very seriously. We committed ourselves to giving you an honest and fair evaluation and, though there were some noteworthy achievements — MacArthur Fellowship, Pulitzer Prize — we found your overall application lacked a breadth of scholarship and service that are hallmarks of a University of North Carolina education. Perhaps a few examples will elucidate our thinking and help you better understand how we reached our decision.

You referenced developing a cure for all forms of cancer. This is fine but we wondered why you didn’t also find a cure for HIV/AIDS. Close to a million people die from this disease every year and yet you ignored it as if it were the common cold. Scandalous. Also, we wondered what this had to due with a tenure position as a journalism professor.

Climate change. Still happening. Feels like you missed an opportunity here.

Yes, yes, we were all thankful you saved those children from the burning orphanage but we really thought it was in poor taste to tell anyone about it. When the media came why didn’t you run away and hide, never to reveal your identity? Real heroes shirk the spotlight and are content on living a nameless existence, one in which they are called upon at a moment’s notice to save the day without receiving trifling things like praise or pay.

My car broke down on the interstate a few nights ago. Where were you? It took 12 minutes for the tow truck OnStar dispatched to show up. The driver got grease on my leather seats! I’m beside myself, even all these days later.

We all agreed that your name should be Nick Jones.

I don’t mean to point fingers but last Tuesday someone took my leftover Quail Legs with Tamarind Glaze and Fig Chutney from the office fridge. I made the long trek to three farmer’s markets just to get the ingredients. Do you understand the level of difficulty involved in acquiring fresh tamarind? And just know, I put my initials on the container so there couldn’t have been any confusion as to whose Quail Legs with Tamarind Glaze and Fig Chutney were in the fridge. This was no accident.

We wondered if you could do a hand stand. After much deliberation we decided that you probably couldn’t. To say we were disappointed is an understatement.

As you can see we had a long list of valid reasons to question the wisdom of approving your tenure. Please note, this has absolutely nothing to do with the 1619 Project and the pushback we received from conservatives. Nor, is this about your race or gender. Indeed, we have at least three or four black gals on the faculty at UNC. No, this is strictly about qualifications. We were looking for someone who cured cancer and AIDS and who also didn’t steal people’s leftovers but who could be counted on to do a quality headstand when the occasion arises. Sadly, this wasn’t you.


Richard (Dick) Y. Stevens

Chair, University of North Carolina Board of Trustees

Dad. Husband. Writer. Dork.