Publisher Walter Hussman lobbied UNC against hiring 1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones at the journalism school named for him: report

Nikole Hannah-Jones
The New York Times magazine journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones speaks at the 137th Commencement of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 16, 2021.

  • Publisher Walter Hussman felt that hiring Hannah-Jones would tie UNC too closely with the 1619 Project.
  • Hussman said Hannah-Jones didn’t recognize the “efforts” of white Americans during the Civil Rights Movement.
  • Hannah-Jones is weighing legal action against the university after a tenure dispute.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Walter Hussman, the newspaper publisher whose name adorns the University of North Carolina’s journalism school, warned the university against hiring New York Times magazine journalist and 1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones, according to emails obtained by the digital magazine The Assembly.

Hussman, an alumnus whose $25 million donation to the school in 2019 led to his name being affixed to the institution, felt that Hannah-Jones didn’t give enough credit to white Americans who fought for civil rights and questioned whether her hiring would attract unwanted attention to the journalism school.

The 1619 Project, which was published by The New York Times Magazine in 2019, examines the legacy of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans throughout the nation’s history, drawing the ire of conservatives who have disputed its historical accuracy and are seeking to ban the project from schools across the country.

Hannah-Jones received the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for the project in 2020.

“I worry about the controversy of tying the UNC journalism school to the 1619 project,” Hussman wrote in a December email to Susan King, the dean of the journalism school. “I find myself more in agreement with Pulitzer prize winning historians like James McPherson and Gordon Wood than I do Nikole Hannah-Jones.”

He added: “These historians appear to me to be pushing to find the true historical facts. Based on her own words, many will conclude she is trying to push an agenda, and they will assume she is manipulating historical facts to support it. If asked about it, I will have to be honest in saying I agree with the historians.”

Read more: What we learned about Joe Biden from riding Amtrak with a Senate colleague who has known the president for five decades

Hussman, the publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, told The Assembly he wouldn’t discuss in detail his communication about Hannah-Jones as he is a working journalist, but he confirmed the content of the emails.

He has long described an adherence to journalistic “core values” that shape the mission of the publications that he owns. The hallmark values include objectivity, impartiality, integrity, and truth-seeking.

However, additional emails obtained by The Assembly displayed Hussman’s sharp opinions about Hannah-Jones’s work.

In a September email, Hussman rejected part of her opening essay, where she described the fight for civil rights after World War II, writing that Black Americans largely “fought back alone.”

“I think this claim denigrates the courageous efforts of many white Americans to address the sin of slavery and the racial injustices that resulted after the Civil War,” he reportedly wrote in the email.

Hussman then mentioned that Freedom Riders and many white Southern journalists stood alongside Black Americans during the turbulent civil rights battles of the 1960s.

“Long before Nikole Hannah-Jones won her Pulitzer Prize, courageous white southerners risking their lives standing up for the rights of blacks were winning Pulitzer prizes, too,” he wrote, per the emails obtained by The Assembly.

On Sunday, Hannah-Jones tweeted out the article published by The Assembly, calling it “great, if disappointing reporting,” while responding to one of the comments that Hussman reportedly made to UNC.

“Completely irrelevant to my credentials as a journalist, for the record, I’ve long credited Black and white race beat reporters with inspiring my own journalism,” she wrote. “This has been on the bio page of my web site for years.”

In April, Hannah-Jones was offered a position as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at UNC.

However, after Hannah-Jones went through an extensive tenure process with the backing of faculty and the tenure committee, her application hit a roadblock with the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees.

The board of trustees is tasked with reviewing and approving tenure applications, and it declined to move forward with authorizing tenure for Hannah-Jones, who earned a master’s degree in journalism and mass communications from the university, as first reported by NC Policy Watch earlier this month.

On Friday, Hannah-Jones said that she was considering legal action against UNC, expressing that she had “no desire to bring turmoil or a political firestorm to the university” but felt “obligated to fight back against a wave of anti-democratic suppression.”

“As a Black woman who has built a nearly two-decades long career in journalism, I believe Americans who research, study, and publish works that expose uncomfortable truths about the past and present manifestations of racism in our society should be able to follow these pursuits without risk to their civil and constitutional rights,” she said in a statement.

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Anthony Fauci said he thinks universities, cruise ships, and airlines will require proof of COVID-19 vaccines before letting people in

GettyImages anthony fauci
Anthony Fauci thinks airlines and cruise ships will require customers to get vaccinated.

  • Anthony Fauci said he expects airlines and cruise ships to require passengers get a COVID vaccine.
  • Fauci expects many individual businesses will require customers show proof of vaccination.
  • Many universities have already started to require students get vaccinated to attend in-person class.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Anthony Fauci said though the US is not requiring everyone get the COVID-19 vaccine, he expects individual businesses will.

Fauci, the chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, said he expects businesses like airlines and cruise ships to require customers to show proof of getting a COVID-19 vaccine before coming on-board. Many universities, he added, have already started to require students get vaccinated if they’d like to attend in-person classrooms.

“There are organizations, particularly universities and colleges who are saying, not withstanding what the federal government is requiring, if you want to come into campus and be in in-person learning, you’re going to have to show proof of vaccination,” Fauci said during the the Bloomberg Businessweek conference on Thursday.

“Cruise ships will likely be doing that. Airlines will likely be doing that. So you’re going to have at, a local, independent-level, things that the federal government is not going to be mandating,” he said.

Read more: Novavax could have the ‘best’ COVID-19 shot, but new delays are raising questions about the $10 billion biotech’s path to profits

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its COVID-19 guidelines for the cruise line industry to allow ship to sail if 98% of crew and 95% of passengers are vaccinated against COVID-19.

Many major cruise lines are planning to resume sailing this summer by departing from international ports instead of US waters due to CDC restrictions, Insider’s Brittany Chang reported.

The CDC recently said fully vaccinated people can remove masks in most indoor and outdoor places, but made an exception for health care facilities, public transportation, and airports.

Airlines, many of which lost revenue due to travel restrictions last year, are offering cheap fares to get Americans in the air again. The Transportation Security Administration announced on May 18 it screened more than 1.8 million people at airport security checkpoints, a new record high number of travelers since March 2020.

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Why student debt will keep rising despite loan-forgiveness programs lawmakers are proposing in Congress

student loan debt college
A graduating student wears a money lei, a necklace made of US dollar bills, at the Pasadena City College graduation ceremony, June 14, 2019, in Pasadena, California.

  • US lawmakers are debating student debt-relief proposals, seeking help for people saddled with loans.
  • But the proposals on the table right now are not a comprehensive solution, experts say. 
  • The problem is a cycle of student loan accumulation, and little education about how this debt works.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

It’s a familiar sight each year: a sea of soon-to-be college graduates, seated in their caps and gowns, with families and friends watching proudly as they march, one-by-one, across the stage to receive their hard-earned degrees.

But for many of the 35 million student-loan borrowers in the US, the celebration is short-lived. Months out of college, their debts become due and payable, and for some, it will be a heavy burden.

Since entering office, President Joe Biden has encountered immense pressure to aggressively address the student-loan crisis.

Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer in February announced a plan to wipe out up to $50,000 in student loans per borrower. But Biden dismissed it.

“I will not make that happen,” he said. “I’m prepared to write off $10,000 in debt, but not 50,” he said. “I don’t think I have the authority to do it.”

There is support for student debt relief across party lines. According to a national survey conducted by the Harris Poll in December, 55% of Americans favor total student loan forgiveness. And around 64% of respondents said they support writing off a fixed amount, like $10,000.

Education debt has been rising steadily for about a decade, experts told Insider. It’s also been holding people back.

“Students who graduate with debt may put off life milestones such as buying a car, owning a home, getting married, or entering certain low-paying professions like teaching or social work,” a 2006 report from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities says.

The problem persists, and has only gained momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shuttered businesses across the US and canceled out millions of jobs in the last year.

“Former students have not been able to get rid of their debt,” said Andrew Pentis, a certified student-loan counselor at Student Loan Hero by LendingTree. “So it grows with interest, sometimes multiplying over years, if not decades.”

Poor education about the dangers of debt

Too often, families of first-generation Americans reviewing financial-aid packages from colleges and universities don’t realize the loans they see being offered must be repaid with interest.

Other times, families think of education loans as “good debt.” They view it as “the price to pay for investing in your future, sometimes by getting a degree from a prestigious, but more expensive, school in order to climb the social ladder, Pentis said. 

The government also doesn’t do enough to explain its federal student-loan options. “A large cohort of borrowers leave school without fully understanding the weight of their debt, or their options for repaying it,” Pentis said. “The government needs to take a more direct role in educating students about how to avoid federal student loans, not just offering them without explanation.”

High schools also tend to gloss over the topic, he said.

“The family that’s dead-set on paying six figures to send their child to the prestigious university,” he said, “might not have considered that spending two years at a community college before transferring to that better four-year school could cut their overall costs and borrowing significantly.”

Student debt is on the rise because college education is an industry in the United States, experts told Insider.

“Higher education operates as a free market,” said Chris Mullin, strategy director of data and measurement at the Lumina Foundation, an organization committed to expanding higher-education access.

“As a result,” Mullins said, “the cost a student pays can be set at what the market will bear.”

college student

The cost of tuition depends on a number of factors

College tuition is not regulated federally, and there are distinctions between the way private and public universities set them, which directly affects how much money students and their families will pay. Private university tuition costs are decided by the institutions themselves, student debt experts told Insider.

“Private schools obviously have more leeway when it comes to setting tuition and fees,” Pentis said.

That’s one of the reasons private institutions like New York University set much higher “sticker prices” on their tuitions than public colleges do. The sticker price is the tuition cost a student can expect to pay before grants, loans, and other types of financial aid kick in, which means not everyone pays the full or same amount for higher education.

And because private institutions have more leverage in setting tuition costs, the decision-making process behind it varies from one institution to another. This can lead to differences between the sticker price and the net price of tuition, with the net price being what a student ultimately pays for their education after financial aid has been applied.

Donna Desrochers, principal researcher at the education program run out of the American Institutes for Research, says higher-cost private universities may simply set those prices with the intention to subsidize the cost of tuition for students receiving financial aid.

“It may be that [for] NYU, or any other school, the higher price is taking some of those full-pay dollars from full-pay students, and trying to reallocate to provide aid for other students,” Desrochers said.

Meanwhile, public-university tuition, which is typically more affordable, is set by individual states.

“Perhaps they have a lower sticker price, and maybe they’re not reallocating as much aid to students,” Desrochers said.

Sticker prices are a type of “complex marketing,” according to Desrochers

“It’s kind of like an airline, right? And people compare it to that, sometimes. You’re paying different prices for different seats, depending on when you purchased it. And so, it’s quite similar,” she said. “They’re trying to attract the class that they want.”

Sticker prices also help institutions maintain their costs of operation, Desrochers said. Public colleges benefit from raising sticker prices, especially when states are contributing less money to higher-education budgets.

“That pays for less of the institution’s costs,” Desrochers explained. “It actually ends up shifting those costs onto students.” Because of the recession brought on by the coronavirus, Desrochers expects to see states investing less in higher education, leading to institutions shifting those costs onto students instead of trying to minimize their spending.

“We see it every time after a recession,” she said.

A good chunk of students do not pay the full sticker price for college tuition. According to a study from the National Association of College and University Business Officers, tuition on average was discounted by 46.3% for all undergraduates from 2018 to 2019.

This means, overall, institutions “give substantial grant aid,” said Mullin, the Lumina Foundation strategy director.

Student debt-relief measures are still needed

Collectively, student-loan borrowers in the US owe more than $1.7 trillion. Trillion with a T. So conversations about how to address that debt will continue.

They will go a long way in helping borrowers “who don’t have much of a chance to end their debt on their own,” Pentis said.

But no relief measure will address the source of the problem: brand-new student loans.

If students and family members don’t recognize the dangers of accumulating large amounts of debt at high interest rates, the pattern of rising student debt will continue, experts warn.

While tuition costs are not a federal decision, the government has two levers to pull to encourage colleges to alter tuition rates, Mullin said.

The government can change the amount of money it makes available to a single student or change who is eligible to get financial aid. That way, students will have fewer restrictions like part- or full-time status to receive federal aid. Schools might then give larger aid packages to students, Mullin said.

Additionally, the government can “provide consumer information” with the goal of disclosing data and supplying comparison points intended to help students make informed decisions about their college education.

“It can inform the public by effectively placing a warning on institutions, like the US Surgeon General’s warning on a pack of cigarettes,” Mullin said.

“This kind of ‘warning’ can take the shape of a requirement, for example, that institutions make public the workforce outcomes of their programs,” he said, effectively showing students what kind of return on investment they can expect after graduating college.

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