by Jesse Saffron
One of the most contentious issues in North Carolina arose earlier this year when the UNC system’s Board of Governors (BOG) voted to close UNC-Chapel Hill law school’s Center on Work, Poverty and Opportunity. Progressives in the state accused the Republican-leaning BOG of retaliating against the center’s director, Gene Nichol, for his Democratic ties and for writing op-eds criticizing GOP leaders and policies. Conservatives, however, argued that the closure was not about political censorship, but rather maintaining academic integrity. The Poverty Center’s history of engaging in partisan advocacy, conservatives said, had undermined that integrity.
The controversy has not dissipated. Shortly after the the Poverty Center closed, Gene Nichol announced the creation of the N.C. Poverty Research Fund. It appears to have the same mission as the former Poverty Center, and will also be housed in UNC-Chapel Hill’s law school. In today’s Pope Center feature, John K. Wilson, co-editor of the American Association of University Professors’s (AAUP’s) Academe Blog, and Jay Schalin, the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy’s director of policy analysis, provide opposing views on the issues of university governance and academic freedom raised by this ongoing dispute.