The UNC Board of Governors voted to ban UNC’s Law Center for Civil Rights from suing any government agency on Saturday.
The vote came shortly after the ratification of House Bill 39 which reduces the number of seats on the board from 32 to 24. After the bill’s passing in March of this year, the board has already reduced its size to 29 members.
The law center is not the first institution on UNC’s campus to be targeted by the BOG. Anderson Clayton, junior political science and journalism major and president of SGA, said in 2015 the board voted to close the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity.
“I’m not surprised about [the ban] because I think that the Board of Governors is a highly republican board, they’re elected by a highly republican legislature,” Clayton said.
Statements from the board said the ban came from the idea that the center being able to litigate interferes with the school’s academic mission. An excerpt from UNC’s mission statement does state, “We also extend knowledge-based services and other resources of the University to the citizens of North Carolina and their institutions to enhance quality of life for all people in the State.”
Clayton said the law center often targets the General Assembly.
“The state legislature is often to blame for unequal education opportunities, voting rights, and environment racism which are all three things that the center targets and was originally built for.” Clayton said.
Cary Fraser, a professor of political science in the Department of Government and Justice Studies at App State, said via email he thinks the issue has not been given the consideration it deserves.
“If the law of the land is equal access to public education and a local government decides to introduce segregated public education – as a matter of both policy and/or practice – should a publicly-funded school/university be denied the right to fulfill its legal responsibilities to provide equal access to education and be deprived of the right to seek legal redress?” Fraser said via email.
The law center is funded privately, not publicly.
The week leading up to the vote Tyler Hardin, UNC system’s student body president, said in a statement that it was his duty to speak about this issue.
“Experiential learning is vital to any legal education, and core to the Center for Civil Rights’ mission and purpose,” Hardin said. “Any attempt to stifle these opportunities is a direct obstruction to the holistic and comprehensive programs offered by the center.”
Story by; Dylan Austin, Intern News Reporter