Readers respond to the recommendation by a Board of Governors’ committee to close the UNC poverty center and to Gene Nichol, the center’s director. MORE LETTERS WERE ADDED AT 1:15 P.M.:
Regarding the Feb. 19 statement “ The significant costs of politicians’ thin skin”: Gene Nichol may be angry about the demise of his poverty center, but to suggest the cut is unconstitutional is borderline delusional. This coming from someone who teaches constitutional law should trigger a wider study of the value and integrity of the UNC Law School.
His tirade reflects the sense of entitlement the left has especially when the poverty center originated to launch a political campaign. Advocacy centers should be eliminated from the UNC system whether politically left or right.
Nichol can use his time and cushy, six-figure income to bolster or create any political nongovernmental organization he wants. Not one taxpayer penny or the UNC name should be spent on his personal agenda.
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My guess is one UNC business school graduate has the potential to reduce more poverty than a hundred left-wing law professors.
Charlie Bolton Jr.
Poverty and education are closely linked: To improve education, we must first reduce poverty. To reduce poverty, we must first improve education.
Wake County fourth-grade teacher Kristen Beller pointed this out a year ago in the Feb. 20, 2014 Point of View “ Poverty, not pay, the issue.” She wrote: “(We) see children walking our halls each day who are not prepared to be there. They may be middle or high school students who don’t have lunch money or school supplies. Some are kindergartners ... who don’t know yet how to hold a book facing the right way or recognize the letters in their name.”
Former UNC System president Bill Friday knew poverty was the top education issue. In retirement, Friday spent much of his time examining the causes of poverty and proposing solutions. Former Gov.
Jim Hunt knew. His education policies addressed both economic and educational needs.
Gene Nichol knows; the UNC Poverty Center he directs leads the “war against poverty” in our state and beyond. But Gov. Pat McCrory and our Republican legislature don’t “get it” and don’t seem to care.
I hope voters remember this in November 2016. I know I will.
Peter V. Andrews
Regarding the Feb. 19 news article “ 3 university centers could be eliminated”: Ever since the Republicans took over the state legislature in 2010 and the governorship in 2012, it has been no secret that destroying the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity has been one of their priorities.
In the Jesse Helms tradition, the North Carolina Republicans choose to silence their critics rather than respond to the criticisms. Closing the poverty center is an affront to free speech, especially dangerous when it’s done at the crown jewel of our state’s educational institutions. One can only assume the next item on their agenda is to gut the UNC budget similar to the $300 million cut proposed by Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker for the “too liberal” University of Wisconsin.
Exhibit No. 1 is the UNC poverty center. After all, who could be a better example of liberal thinking than the most articulate anti-poverty warrior in North Carolina, the poverty center’s director Professor Gene Nichol?
The governor and legislative leaders do not like to be accused of being insensitive to the problems of poverty in our state – but they are. Nichol, a man of immense courage, has not hesitated to take on the power structure with the truth. And attempting to silence him by closing the poverty center is a disgusting display of political cowardice that only reinforces the public image of Republicans as the party which favors enriching the rich and further impoverishing the poor.
Gene Nichol, in his Feb. 19 statement “ The significant costs of politicians’ thin skins,” protested the elimination of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity.
The poverty center was created in 2005. At that time, according to Nichol, North Carolina had the 26th highest rate of poverty among the states. “Now we are ninth, speeding past the competition” Nichol said.
Obviously, the poverty level has risen alarmingly in the 10 years since the center was created. Nichol believes that the center has been eliminated because of his political viewpoints. Based on his own statement, however, the center is a failure. Studying poverty, and educating North Carolinians about poverty, has not helped those in need.
I have to confess that I usually do not agree with the editorial stance of The N&O, but I find myself in total agreement with the Feb. 20 editorial, “ Legacy of shame.”
UNC-CH is, and has been, a shining light for our state, and I have real concerns that the Board of Governors’ actions in recent months – the firing of Tom Ross and the closing of Professor Gene Nichol’s Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity – will only serve to diminish it.
Unfortunately, I fear that your editorial may be an exercise of “tilting at windmills” as I am not sure that the BOG is capable of feeling shame as we might define it and has developed an outstanding capacity to rationalize its actions.
I am sure that BOG members, if they even read The N&O, will see your editorial and shake their heads, tsk-tsking that we just don’t understand the issues that they are dealing with. I think I understand what they are doing all too well. And I am ashamed of them for it.
Regarding the Feb. 20 Point of View “ A betrayal of past, promise”: It is a sad commentary on the current intellectual climate when the dean of Carolina’s law school feels obligated to say that he does not speak for UNC when he passionately and eloquently defends the right of inquiry that lies at the very foundation of the university.
I am confident that he speaks for the vast majority of our faculty, staff and students in upholding that right.
Joseph S. Ferrell
Secretary of the Faculty, UNC-CH
Regarding the Feb. 19 news article “ 3 university centers could be eliminated”: In a pathetic move, a committee of the UNC Board of Governors acted to retaliate against the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity to avenge the hurt feelings of Gov. Pat McCrory and the Republican-led legislature by recommending the center be closed.
While stating they were not opposed to work on poverty, the board members apparently did not like having someone connect the dots between the policies and laws of the governor and the legislature and the resulting damage to our most vulnerable citizens.
As a proud UNC-CH alumna, I am sickened by this overt political payback. It is a sad day when the Board of Governors uses the university system as a tool to exact revenge against those speaking out for the poor and powerless. Our university system deserves better.
The entire board should be removed. The members of the Board of Governors are not worthy of the office they hold. They have disgraced our state and the pride of our state, the University of North Carolina.
Well, it appears that the “thought police” are alive and well and running the current UNC Board of Governors. They cannot abide any viewpoint different from their own so they have decided to eliminate three university centers, and we knew it was coming; one of these is the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity (even though it receives no state funding).
What is it that so frightens our latest state political leadership that they and their close allies on the Board of Governors cannot let opposing viewpoints be heard? These are the folks who continually tout the concept of marketplace forces being inherently self-correcting. Apparently in their minds that only applies to economic marketplaces and not to the “marketplace of ideas.”
Are they all so paternalistic and elitist that they truly believe North Carolina residents don’t have the intellect to consider different ideas and sort through those that appear to have validity in their experience and those that do not? Isn’t that one of the great assets of an education: to be exposed to other differing points of view and weigh these ideas for their merits?
These same folks also tout the concept of democracy but maybe someone should remind them that true democracy depends on a free marketplace of ideas. Our Founding Fathers, whom they love to quote, knew this.
When the “thought police” come out this forcefully, we are heading down a slippery slope where those currently in power believe that their “freedom of speech” is far more important and worthy than anyone else’s “freedom of speech.” They may be entitled to that opinion but only if all points of view are still allowed to be heard.
Academic freedom is dying in this great state. Wake up voters!
Our state legislature is doing a wonderful job of publicizing Gene Nichol’s Center for Poverty, Work, and Opportunity. Two years ago I knew almost nothing about him or his organization.
The effort to eliminate state support has now ensured that there will be plenty of private donors to expand the center’s activities! I’m wondering whether there is some office space available near the Legislative Building for the expanded operation? Perhaps the legislature could also publish an address for donations to the center.
Power never cared much for truth-tellers. Just ask the politicians.
North Carolina’s rate of poverty has shown staggering increases in recent years, and the need for us to be enlightened and aware of the painful implications of poverty has never been more urgent or compelling.
Leaders of great universities haven’t always relished the challenges that came from wrestling with and facing hard truths, but they knew they had a sacred and solemn responsibility to protect such endeavors.
The recommendation of the panel of the UNC Board of Governors to eliminate the UNC-Chapel Hill’s Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity is a shameful abdication of that responsibility. Is there no one among those in power who is principled enough to take a stand before this grotesque recommendation becomes a reality?
William S. Meyer
It’s quite ironic that the UNC Board of Governors recommends the closing of the Center for Poverty, Work and Opportunity, due to the audacity of director and law rofessor Gene Nichol. Board members have said the center “engages in political activity and political bias” when the true political bias and agenda are being set by the Board of Governor members themselves – bias against academic freedom, integrity of research, and shedding light on the imperative to fight social and economic injustice for all in our state.
As if ignoring the staggering statics related to poverty and the multiple vulnerabilities of the most disenfranchised in our state was not egregious enough, this closure adds insult to injury. By dismantling our state’s flagship university from housing a center that addresses North Carolina’s greatest challenge, eliminating poverty, we have let political ideology and bias erode the very purpose of academic pursuit.
Lisa de Saxe Zerden
The recommendation to the UNC Board of Governors to close UNC-Chapel Hill’s Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity represents an appalling misunderstanding of the role of higher education in a democracy. The recommendation places them in a long line of leaders who try to repress the role of education in raising important questions about issues of justice and the extent to which our society ensures the dignity and well-being of all of the residents in our state.
We live in a society in which there are unconscionable levels of hunger, homelessness, lack of access to decent medical care and quality education; a state in which one quarter of our children are growing up in poverty. And one in which serious questions must be posed as to who is really benefiting and who is losing in the current economy.
These board members are in good company with many of those in authority around the world who favor an education that makes no waves, never questions the decisions of government and does not encourage a new generation to think critically about the kind of society in which they live.
From Jefferson on, Americans have understood that education is about more than providing “marketable skills.” Without civic literacy and the courage to question power that only our educational institutions can nurture and encourage, democracy withers. We should fear that this is the direction the current board wishes to take us.
The UNC Board of Governors is so clumsy. It really should only be targeting people who disagree ideologically with them who also either are too polite to bite back (like UNC system President Tom Ross) or who can’t write and expose them. Gene Nichol does both of those with a sharp knife.
I love the irony of closing the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity. Are these not the three top issues behind building a stronger economy in North Carolina and the United States as a whole?