I have a new hero. He’s Walter E. Hussman Jr., an Arkansas newspaper publisher. Hussman, a major donor to the University of North Carolina, raised objections to UNC awarding tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones. Hannah-Jones is the author of the 1619 project, a radical reinterpretation of American history that has been rejected by leading historians, including liberal ones and even socialists.
Hussman says he didn’t threaten to stop donating to the University if Hannah-Jones received tenure. Rather, he merely voiced concerns about “tying the UNC journalism school to the 1619 project.” (The journalism school is named after Hussman.) “Based on [Hannah-Jones’] own words,” he explained, “many will conclude she is trying to push an agenda, and they will assume she is manipulating historical facts to support it.”
That seems to be Hussman’s conclusion. He pointed to Hannah-Jones’ bogus claim that the American Revolution was waged to preserve slavery. Even the New York Times, which published Hannah-Jones’ screed, walked away from that one. Hussman also objected to Hannah-Jones’ absurd claim that Blacks were largely alone in their fight against slavery. What about the abolitionists, Hussman wondered.
Hannah-Jones’ lefty supporters are attacking Hussman for “inserting his views about who deserves tenure.” This, they say, jeopardized “academic freedom.” (Nice to see this sudden concern for academic freedom from the academic left.) One clownish professor went so far as to call this an “ethical violation” on Hussman’s part.
Nonsense. Hussman would have been well within his rights if he had threatened to stop donating to UNC. Donors have no obligation to continue giving money to universities that grant tenure to professors they believe are manipulating facts to push a political agenda.
But Hussman apparently didn’t go that far (doing so would have made him more heroic in my eyes). He simply expressed his opinion about whether Hannah-Jones deserved tenure. Any alum or donor has that right.
If only more of them exercised it.