Illustration from The Assembly of Nikole Hannah-Jones and the 1619 Project and Walter Hussman.

More reporting from NC Policy Watch on the continuing controversy at the University of North Carolina over intervention by conservative Republicans, including UNC grad and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette owner Walter Hussman, to prevent the journalism school from hiring 1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones as a tenured distinguished faculty member.

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She spurned the job, in part because she said she didn’t want to work for a school named for Hussman, who got naming rights for the J-school after promising a $25 million gift to be paid over 14 or more years. Part of his deal was that the school would post, inscribed in granite, the statement of “core values” he reprints in his newspaper every day.

The article today reports:

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Members of the UNC-Chapel Hill journalism school faculty overwhelmingly reject the notion that a mega-donor’s “core values” of journalism should be the official values of the school, according to a recent survey.

Instead, the faculty members favor independently determining the school’s values.

“The reason we had to have this survey was because our namesake donor was weaponizing his values and his newspapers’ values against a hire the faculty and the university clearly wanted to make and make with tenure,” said Daniel Kreiss, professor at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

Kreiss said there should have been a discussion and inclusion of faculty before adopting Hussman’s purported values as the values of the institution.

The article says faculty members worry about Hussman exerting future influence.
With the majority of his $25 million pledge yet to be fulfilled, members of the journalism school faculty say they worry Hussman may continue to exert influence behind closed doors. When he used the values statement to question Hannah-Jones’s ethics and professionalism, faculty members say Hussman ignited a conversation about whether one man’s values should define the school’s approach to journalism. They are also concerned that the statement could be misused to attack journalists with differing views.

“The problem is not the statement of values itself,” said Kate Sheppard, an assistant professor at the UNC Hussman school. “The problem is the apparent insertion of himself into the process and the suggestion he might have been using those as some sort of litmus test.”

The article says conservatives have begun pushing back, including with objections to the decision to remove Hussman’s statement from the school’s website. 73 of 149 full- and part-time faculty members responded to the survey. Of those, 81 percent said Hussman’s statement should be displayed in granite as his donor agreement specified, but with an attribution making clear it was a statement published daily in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. As opposed, presumably, to a statement of school values. Those surveyed said there should be an inclusive discussion about a values statement for the journalism school.

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