Continued Legal Discussion Regarding Nikole Hannah-Jones Potential Lawsuit with UNC

Mark: UNC Chapel Hill could be soon facing a federal lawsuit over the controversy surrounding a new hire. Policy watch reports if University trustees didn’t vote to give journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones a permanent professorship by today, they would take legal action.

Lena: Less than half an hour ago, UNC confirmed to WRAL News they’re in touch with Hannah-Jones’ lawyers over the matter. WRAL Sarah Krueger joins us live on campus after speaking with an attorney on what route this possible legal batter could now take.

Sarah: Lena, according to UNC officials, Hannah-Jones has already agreed to a 5-year contract to come teach here, so I wanted to know if she wanted to get out of that contract, how easy that would be or not. There is speculation among some UNC faculty that Nikole Hannah-Jones may not come to UNC after all the controversy surrounding the board of trustees’ inaction on giving her a permanent position. The board of trustees chair previously said that Hannah-Jones had agreed to this 5-year contract offered by the university, which does not guarantee tenure. I asked attorney Laura Noble what would be possible then for Hannah-Jones to back out of it.

Laura Noble: I don’t know without having read the contract, so I can’t speak specifically to that that, but in general, if they misled her with respect to that position and what benefits have been offered since 1980 with respect to that position, meaning a tenured faculty position, then they’re going to have an issue with it’s enforceability.

Sarah: Meanwhile, faculty are increasing their calls on the board of trustees to give her a permanent appointment. 36 journalism professors released a statement to that effect, including Deb Aikat.

Are you confident at this point that she still wats to come to UNC?

Deb Aikat: I hope Nikole Hannah-Jones will come to UNC because she has had a long association with UNC, and her work is important for all of us to benefit from.

Sarah: Some believe the resistance from the board is due to the controversy surrounding her most famous work about the legacy of slavery and America. Her attorneys say this is an example of racial discrimination.

And I did reach out to Hannah-Jones’ attorneys to ask them if they have filed a lawsuit yet or if they have plans to do so. I heard back from them about 30 minutes ago and they declined to comment.


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