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 University of North Carolina Board Closes 3 Centers, Feral Leftists Freak Out

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University of North Carolina Board Closes 3 Centers, Feral Leftists Freak Out Vide
PostSubject: University of North Carolina Board Closes 3 Centers, Feral Leftists Freak Out   University of North Carolina Board Closes 3 Centers, Feral Leftists Freak Out Icon_minitimeSat Feb 28, 2015 12:02 am

The University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors voted unanimously on Friday to close three academic centers, including a poverty center run by an outspoken critic of the state’s Republican leadership, setting off allegations of partisanship and academic censorship.

The vote took place at a raucous board meeting in Charlotte that was interrupted by protesters who broke into chants and stood to read texts in opposition. The board was reportedly forced to move to a separate room to conclude its business.

Board members who recommended the closings maintain that the move was not political so much as practical. Jim Holmes, a board member who led an advisory panel that recommended the closings, argued that the centers were not producing much work or stimulating multidisciplinary research.

The closings were part of a broad review of the university system’s 240 boards and institutes, begun after lawmakers asked the board to consider redirecting some of the centers’ funding to other academic areas.

“We went through a very thorough, objective process,” Mr. Holmes said in a phone interview on Friday. “Just because it’s not popular doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do.”

But critics saw a partisan move by a board dominated by members appointed by the Republican-controlled state legislature, particularly when it came to the closing of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, affiliated with the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill.

The center’s director, Gene Nichol, a law professor, has been an outspoken critic of the state’s Republican leaders, including Gov. Pat McCrory, in columns he has written for a Raleigh-based newspaper, The News & Observer.

In a statement on Friday, Mr. Nichol said the board was engaging in “state-sponsored censorship” and punishing him for publishing “articles that displease the board and its political benefactors.”

“Were I to have praised the legislature’s war on poor people, rather than decrying it, the board would have placed laurels on my head instead of boots on my neck,” he said.

John Charles Boger, the law school dean, issued a statement defending the center’s work. He also argued that the board had closed the poverty center because it disapproved of Mr. Nichol’s “writings and speeches.”

“That motive contravenes core principles of academic free speech and inquiry,” Mr. Boger said.

Also set to close are North Carolina Central University’s Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Change and East Carolina University’s Center for Biodiversity. The civic engagement institute’s director, Jarvis A. Hall, said the board’s reasons seemed to be ever-changing. “It seems to me that there appears to be a political motivation,” he said.

Heather Vance-Chalcraft, director of outreach at the biodiversity center, said its basic work would continue under another name, and with some bureaucratic reordering.

None of the three centers receive direct taxpayer funding.

The moves are being passionately followed in a state with robust liberal and conservative factions, but where conservatives hold sway in the government. In recent months, liberal North Carolinians have staged a series of large-scale protests against the legislature’s ambitious conservative agenda.

They are particularly concerned that the board of governors is bringing a partisan agenda to the University of North Carolina system, which has a national reputation for excellence but a reputation among some of the state’s conservatives as a bastion of left-wing groupthink. Francis X. De Luca, president of the Civitas Institute, a conservative think tank, has said that some of the academic centers in the system are geared more toward advocacy than education.

Mr. Nichol said in his statement that the “censorship efforts” had prompted a number of foundations and private donors to “assure that the work of the center, if not the center itself, will continue and markedly expand.”

Mr. Nichol’s tone was defiant and, at times, pugnacious.

“North Carolinians are not easily cowered,” he said. “They react poorly to petty tyrants. They always have.”
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