UNC vote reveals ‘political vendetta’
The recent vote to bar UNC’s Center for Civil Rights from taking on legal cases, “UNC panel votes to bar new clients for civil rights center” (Aug. 2), is the latest example of right-wingers pressing forward with their political vendetta against our flagship university.
In this latest attack, Board of Governors member Steve Long asked in written questions, “does the university believe that it would be wise policy to let other stakeholders at UNC form academic centers that can pursue advocacy agendas ...?” It’s a fair question and one I would ask Long, who currently serves the UNC System Board of Governors and was on the board of the John William Pope Civitas Institute: For whom do you advocate?
More to the point, how do the centers and the BOG reflect the overall mission statement of the UNC system which includes service to “North Carolina, the United States, and the world through teaching, research, and public service.”? The UNC School of Law is not unique in this endeavor; after all, the UNC School of Dentistry’s mission is both “excellence in teaching and patient care.” I wonder if Long will next concern himself with dentists providing free clinics.
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Law center vote ‘deja vu’
Regarding “UNC panel votes to bar new clients for civil rights center” (Aug. 2): I am dismayed and distressed at the 5-1 BOG committee vote against the UNC Civil Rights Center. As one who remembers the speaker ban controversy, this is like deja vu all over again.
I knew Frank Graham, Billy Carmichael, Bill Friday, Bill Ayrock, Julius Chambers and Dean Smith. And I know Judge Dickson Phillips, former dean of the law school, where I taught for 10 years. I have an infinite capacity for doubt, but I have no doubt at all that these six Chapel Hill immortals would be as upset by this as I am.
James B. Craven III
‘First in Imposition’
Regarding “UNC panel votes to bar new clients for civil rights center” (Aug. 2): With the latest developments from the University of North Carolina Board of Governors in the Carolina Law School Civil Rights Clinic controversy and the ultra-conservative bent in the Republican majority at the N.C. General Assembly, I’d like to suggest a new license plate slogan to replace “First In Flight” and “First in Freedom.”
How about “First In Imposition”?
Mark G. Rodin
UNC Center ‘enriches lives’
Regarding “UNC panel votes to bar new clients for civil rights center” (Aug. 2): A UNC Board of Governors committee just voted to prohibit the UNC law school’s Center for Civil Rights from providing legal counsel and engaging in litigation. The full board will vote on the proposal in September. This ban would not only deprive law students of opportunities for service learning and community engagement but also deny them a chance to develop critical thinking skills. Hands-on litigation experience can also develop analytical, argumentative and general communication skills.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that a study of 200 colleges found that “at more than half the schools, at least a third of seniors were unable to make a cohesive argument, assess the quality of evidence in a document or interpret data in a table.” What better way for students to hone these skills than through rigorous and challenging litigation?
From a broader perspective, allowing these bright young men and women to engage in defending civil rights and advocating for social justice will certainly add to their formation a depth of knowledge, empathy and appreciation for diversity that will enrich their lives and, ultimately, those of all North Carolina residents. Certainly in keeping with the university’s mission of public service.
‘Stick to knitting’?
In the Aug. 2 article “UNC panel votes to bar new clients for civil rights center” Joe Knott, a member of the Board of Governors committee, suggested that “the UNC law school should stick to its knitting.”
Knott appears to have “dropped a stitch” with such flawed reasoning. If the law school is not allowed to have hands-on training, then it appears this ruling would apply to the Schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Education and any other department that has internships as learning tools.
Vote against law center ‘racist action’
Regarding the 5-1 vote to bar future clients from representation by the UNC Law School’s Civil Rights Center (“UNC panel votes to bar new clients for civil rights center,” Aug. 2): I cannot let this vote stand without a strong rebuke. This decision, while couched in mission drift language, is a racist action. It supports institutional racism by denying young lawyers the skill training to take on discriminatory practices by businesses and other sectors.
To prohibit the training of lawyers in the practice of civil rights law is like prohibiting dental students from drilling a tooth to remove an abscess or prohibiting medical students from learning to remove a cancerous tumor. Racism in our society is an abscess and a cancer that continues to plague us and degrade our health. Therefore, the people don’t need the UNC Board of Governors giving the wrong treatment plan for racism, a plan that will bring moral pain and social agony to the University and North Carolina.
It would be wise to require all members of the Board of Governors to take racial equity training. The training is a compelling focus on white supremacy that has ruled the American economy and institutions, bolstering the foothold of systemic racism. The current vote is a backward move, on the wrong side of history. Surely we are a better people than this. I urge the Board of Governors to reverse this shamefully wrong decision.
Rev. Mel Williams
Pastor emeritus, Watts Street Baptist Church