The Raleigh News and Observer has obtained information on the deal struck between the University of North Carolina and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette publisher/owner Walter Hussman in which the journalism school was renamed for him in return for the promise of a $25 million gift.
The deal has come under increased scrutiny since North Carolina outlets began reporting on Hussman’s discouragement of the hiring of Nikole Hannah-Jones as a distinguished professor at his namesake school. She’s the Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of the 1619 Project, which Hussman has criticized. He insists the objections he raised to the dean, at least one member of the UNC Board of Trustees and others did NOT amount to pressure not to hire Hannah-Jones. He said he was merely an alumnus sharing his thoughts about a hire at the school he attended.
There was not a $25 million lump-sum gift. Instead, the N&O reported it will come in a minimum of 14 years and perhaps longer depending on the life expectancy of Hussman and his wife:
The Hussman Family Foundation will pay $12.5 million in equal installments of about $1.3 million over a nine-year period that started in 2019, according to the contract.
Each payment will sustain “The Walter Edward and Robena Kendrick ‘Ben’ Hussman Discretionary Fund,” an endowed fund that will be used at the discretion of the dean of the school.
Before the fund provides annual income payments of $200,000, the dean will be provided with $200,000 of “unrestricted, expendable support” to spend at his or her discretion.
The remaining $12.5 million will be paid in equal annual installments of $2.5 million over a five-year period beginning once both Robena and Walter Hussman Jr. have died.
Once the $25 million is paid, Hussman’s name could not be removed. But this apparently means that it would be possible to do so now, as some members of the faculty at the school have encouraged. If another donor contributed $25 million, that name could be added with a hyphen. Hussman also can withdraw from the deal, though he has said he remains firm in the gift commitment despite the criticism he’s received over the Hannah-Jones controversy. It increased when she said she couldn’t work for a school with Hussman’s name attached and struck another deal with Howard University.
The deal also required “the core value statement as published each day in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette be displayed through a specific presentation in granite in the wall within the lobby of the UNC School of Media and Journalism within ninety (90) days of the date of the 2019 announcement.” The pandemic slowed that granite presentation, but the statement is written on the wall at the entrance to the school.
The journalism faculty met Wednesday journalism “to discuss how Hussman’s values are affecting the school and its future,” the News and Observer reported.
UPDATE: Hussman reiterated in a letter to UNC July 14 his commitment to the gift and his insistence that he had done nothing improper in his campaign against Hannah-Jones.