The negotiated state budget deal leaves UNC’s law school with a cut of $500,000 – smaller than an earlier $4 million proposed reduction.
In recent weeks, prominent alumni of the UNC School of Law have worked to make their case to legislators, a strategy that may have lessened the budget blow on the school.
The Senate had wanted a $4 million, 30 percent reduction in the law school’s state appropriation, but the House budget included no cut. The smaller cut was negotiated between the two chambers. The final budget is up for a vote this week.
The law school’s total annual budget this fiscal year is $31 million.
The school has been a frequent target of the legislature. Two years ago, a $3 million cut was proposed but not approved. Some have suggested that the threatened cuts are meant to send a political message to the school.
The school’s Center for Civil Rights is currently under review by the UNC Board of Governors, after one board member proposed a ban on litigation against government agencies and local governments. The center, which is privately funded, represents low-income, minority clients and has sued local entities in the past. Its power to participate in lawsuits will be discussed by the UNC governing board next month.
Two years ago, the UNC board, which is appointed by the legislature, abolished the law school’s Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity. The center had been directed by Gene Nichol, a former dean, professor and outspoken critic of state Republican political leaders.
At the time, Nichol said the board’s decision was purely partisan, and protesters said it hurt academic freedom. The center shut down, but within days Nichol had launched the N.C. Poverty Research Fund as part of the UNC Law Foundation.