N.C. NAACP blasts UNC board

N.C. NAACP blasts UNC board
May 18
05:10 2017



The president of the N.C. NAACP is critical of a UNC Board of Governors subcommittee proposal that wants the UNC Center for Civil Rights at UNC-Chapel Hill to cease filing complaints motions, lawsuits or other legal claims, usually on behalf of poor people or communities, against any private person, company or government, or acting as or employing legal counsel.

“This is another attempt by the extremist Republican-led General Assembly and its allies to roll back civil rights and undermine any group or policy that fights for civil rights, voting rights and the principle of equal protection under the law embedded in our constitution,” says N.C. NAACP President Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II. “It reveals how afraid they are and how deeply they realize that the policies they are promoting, when exposed, are found to be driven by racism and are an affront to justice.”

“They can’t handle the truth, so they try to stop the truth tellers,” Rev. Barber continued.  “The UNC Center for Civil Rights is under attack because of the work they do, and have done, challenges the [repression] the General Assembly is doing, and wants to do more of.”

The full UNC board is expected to vote on the matter this month. Public opinion was solicited in Chapel Hill on May 11th.

Conservative members of the UNC Board of Governors Education Planning, Policies and Programs Subcommittee say legal centers on UNC campuses should not be involved in litigation, only learning about it.

“We need to confine ourselves to our mission, which is academic,” Raleigh attorney Joe Knott, a committee member said “The university is not a public interest law firm and doesn’t need to be.”

But supporters of the work at the UNC Center –which was started in 2001 by civil rights attorney Julius Chambers – say it provides an invaluable service to low wealth communities in the areas of school desegregation, “… fair housing, environmental justice, community inclusion and political participation,” according to Theodore Shaw, a Julius L. Chambers distinguished professor of law,  and director of the UNC Center for Civil Rights.

“The center works to dismantle structural and radicalized barriers to equality – the legacy of hundreds of years of slavery and racial discrimination that have impacted our state,” wrote Shaw.

Indeed, according to UNC law Professor Gene Nichol, Chambers at first hesitated to establish the Center there, accurately predicting  “They won’t let you open a center to represent poor black people,” referring to conservatives. “And if they do, and if we do our work, they’ll close us down.”

So it was no surprise when, in a February 14 memo, Raleigh attorney Steve Long, another UNC Board of Governors member, wrote, “Filing legal actions against the state or city and county governments is far outside the primarily academic purpose of UNC centers. “

And yet, it was the UNC Center that sued years ago to ensure that all North Carolina public school students were guaranteed the constitutional right to “a sound, basic education, ” and sued to stop a toxic waste dump in Brunswick County that threatened the black community there.

At North Carolina Central University’s School of Law in Durham, there is also concern that two institutions – the Dispute Resolution Institute and the Intellectual Property Law Institute, in addition to eleven legal clinics for students there, would also be in jeopardy.

Irving Joyner, professor of law at NCCU’s School of Law, and chair of the N.C. NAACP Legal Redress Committee, agrees that the UNC Board of Governors proposal is partisan, and pointed.

“[This] is an attempt to send the message to others who are in the University system that efforts to advance, protect and  support the rights of minorities and poor people will be resisted by the UNC Board of Governors,” Prof. Joyner said. “These efforts are shameful and will have the effect of subverting the University’s stated mission of providing education, services and resources to citizens in this state, and to improve its quality of life.”

“Board members who support this effort, ignore the fact and reality that citizens provide the authority and funds which have been used by the university system to gain national recognition and those citizens, particularly those who are often the targets of governmental overreaching, deserve an effective return of their investments to this system.  By the same acts, students are being denied the opportunity to benefit from the many excellent learning labs which our universities have been able to utilize in the past,” Joyner added.

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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