Letters to the Editor

Fred S. Naiden: Use legal money to aid, not defend, UNC

Regarding the Jan. 14 news article “ UNC hires more high-powered legal help”: As a professor at UNC, I read with astonishment, but somehow with no surprise, that the university is going to pay $990 an hour to each and every partner of the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom who works on the hopeless task of convincing courts of law that the university did no wrong in the phony-course scandal and the scandal of underreporting acts of rape and sexual assault on campus.

Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars will flow from the unrestricted funds of the university’s foundation into the hands of a New York law firm whose specialty is protecting the guilty from fines or imprisonment – money that might be much better spent on many other things, starting with back pay for Mary Willingham, the unfairly dismissed whistle-blower who brought the phony courses to the university’s grudgingly given attention as well as to the amazement and dismay of the people, and most especially the taxpayers of North Carolina.

Give Willingham the pay that is due to her, and if there is any money to spare, give it to the university’s staff, from janitors to gardeners to secretaries and craftsmen, who have not received a raise from 2009 to the present, save for the 1 percent bucket drop last year.

Or use the money to lower tuition by some token amount that will still say, “We were wrong. You were not. Give us a chance to do better, and welcome to Chapel Hill.”

To this, the university might frankly reply, “We are guilty, and we need the best lawyers money can buy!”

We – that is the important word – are all guilty, if not in the eyes of any court, then in the eyes of the people of this state. Paying more money to more lawyers will not make us innocent.

Let me gently criticize the governor for approving, as The News & Observer reported, this wasteful expense. These thousand dollars an hour belong to the people. Their money should not be spent defending the indefensible.

Fred S. Naiden

Professor, Department of History, UNC-Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill

The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response.