Shannon Watkins of the Martin Center examines UNC-Chapel Hill’s recent hiring of a controversial journalist.

The recent hiring of New York Times columnist Nikole Hannah-Jones as a faculty member in UNC-Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism raises serious red flags about how the university is being run.

Last week, the Martin Center’s Jay Schalin reported on Hannah-Jones’s appointment to the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at UNC. Hannah-Jones is the founder of the infamous 1619 Project, which seeks to reframe American history as fundamentally racist.

As Schalin notes, Hannah-Jones’s hiring “signals a degradation of journalistic standards,” which should deter any serious student from applying to the journalism school.

Given Hannah-Jones’s questionable credentials, how did she get hired at North Carolina’s flagship research university? The most likely explanation is that unaccountable faculty and administrators made the executive decision to hire her without any involvement by the university’s Board of Trustees.

How could that happen? Don’t trustees have legal oversight of the institution, including faculty hires? Officially and legally speaking, they do: Per UNC policy, trustees have the authority to approve or reject any prospective faculty appointments. …

… In addition, the journalism school’s faculty handbook states that the hiring of a tenure-track faculty member “must be approved by appropriate University committees and boards. All appointments are conditional on those approvals.” However, it’s unclear whether Hannah-Jones’ position is tenure-track or a different kind of faculty rank.

But there’s a catch; according to the same UNC policy, trustees may choose to delegate their rightful authority to others in the campus administration. The policy adds that the “president further authorizes the boards of trustees for the constituent institutions to delegate any of these actions to their chancellors, or to specific designees of the chancellor by title, as they deem appropriate.”

In other words, trustees can in effect give away their authority to the chancellor or the chancellor’s “designees.”