Regarding “Raleigh lawyer champions curbing UNC rights center” (July 30): Steven Long has led the move by the UNC Board of Governors to ban the Center for Civil Rights from litigating on behalf of clients, most of whom are low-wealth communities of color. The CCR has successfully fought environmental racism, unfair housing practices and school resegregation as well as worked on compensating victims of involuntary sterilization. Without receiving any state funds, the CCR is a model for service to the state.
Mr. Long said, “Basically, to me the bottom line is staying on the university’s mission. Is the university going to stay on mission? That, to me, is the biggest issue.” Here’s the mission: “To extend knowledge-based services and other resources of the University to the citizens of North Carolina and their institutions to enhance the quality of life for all people in the State.”
The Center provides hands-on legal education and practice to law students and connects to the work of students in the School of Public Health and elsewhere. The CCR provides direct services to the most marginalized communities in North Carolina, and it more than meets the research, teaching and service requirements of centers and institutes at UNC. Why would anyone want to interfere?
Sherryl Kleinman, Professor, Sociology, UNC
Maria DeGuzman, Professor, English and Comparative Literature, UNC
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Military budget ‘bloated’
North Carolina Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis seem determined to deny necessary health care coverage to millions of Americans in order to provide a tax reduction for the already rich. They would do better to focus on reducing the bloated Pentagon budget. People regularly read reports of wasteful military spending, yet the Department of Defense is the only department in the federal government that is not routinely audited. For example, “Army failed to track weapons in Iraq” (May 25) revealed that the Army “failed to keep track of hundreds of Humvees, tens of thousands of rifles and other military equipment that was sent to Iraq.”
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. President Trump’s proposal to increase Pentagon spending by $54 billion and another $1 trillion to increase the nuclear arsenal provides an illusion of security while, in fact, making Americans less secure. Current wars are never won; rather, they create more enemies as devastation is inflicted on families and communities. Elected representatives instead must focus on providing real security, such as affordable health care for all American families, rather than the false security of military spending, which leads only to more war and suffering.
Proposed ban contradicts UNC’s mission
It was disappointing that the The New & Observer’s July 27 article on the motives behind UNC Board of Governors (BOG) member Steve Long’s efforts to end advocacy by the UNC Center for Civil Rights focused on the dynamic between Long and former UNC Law School dean Gene Nichol. While Mr. Long’s personal story may interest some readers, it is an irresponsible distraction from the real issue at stake in the upcoming BOG vote on the proposal to eliminate the Center’s advocacy: a governmental attack on both academic freedom and the public service mission of the University of North Carolina.
Whatever Long’s personal motivation, it is certainly less important than the ramifications of a BOG decision to adopt the ban. The proposal directly impacts academic freedom at UNC. On July 14, the News & Observer reported that Belle Wheelen, president of the Atlanta-based Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, warned against “micromanaging” the universities it oversees and advised the BOG to “protect academic freedom and respect the faculty’s authority over the curriculum and educational matters.” She also cautioned the BOG to avoid being controlled by a minority of members or outside influences with their own interests or agenda.
The proposed ban on providing direct services to under-resourced communities and families in North Carolina directly contradicts the public service mission of the University. As UNC’s chancellor recently stated, “the proposed new policy will fundamentally change how the Center operates and a foreseeable result will be its closure.” The attempt by the BOG to argue that the advocacy ban is not targeted exclusively at the Center for Civil Rights, and Long’s indignation when confronted directly about his real motives, are textbook examples of the pretext governing bodies present in defense to allegations that their actions will have discriminatory impacts on people of color.
The BOG’s vote is a governmental act that will preclude low-wealth communities of color in our state from having legal representation in their efforts to dismantle systemic discrimination. Perhaps most notably, this advocacy ban is in lock-step with other recent legislative acts at both the state and federal level aimed at curtailing civil rights and anti-discrimination protections. When the BOG votes, it implicates every voter in North Carolina, not just the obsession of one BOG member, and becomes not one man’s legacy, but our own.
Elizabeth Haddix and Mark Dorosin
UNC Center for Civil Rights