Muzzling Liberals?

One of the UNC Board of Governors explained recently UNC-Center for Civil Rights was a political group filing political lawsuits using tax dollars and ought to be stopped. The News and Observer disagreed and wrote an editorial saying the whole idea was ‘preposterous.’

If conservatives set up a Center at UNC-Chapel Hill, staffed it with professors paid by the state, and then the Center worked hand in glove with conservative groups, like the Civitas Institute – attacking Democrats and filing lawsuits to advance conservative causes, Democrats would cry foul. And they’d be right

Now, let’s look at what the UNC-Center for Civil Rights has done.

The UNC-Center says it is not “state funded.” But that’s a red-herring. The UNC-Center is part of UNC-Chapel Hill. It is not an independent corporation or non-profit. It is a state entity. Its funds are state funds.

As the Martin Center for Academic Renewal explained, the UNC-Center’s Chairman and Executive Director of UNC-Center for Civil Rights are professors drawing state salaries. Its other employees are state employees as well. The legislature hasn’t directly appropriated funds to the UNC-Center, but it has received other state funds and support under the control of UNC-Chapel Hill. For example, the Center has stated it uses the resources of the UNC School of Law.

The UNC-Center for Civil Rights has opposed Amendment One, charter schools, school vouchers and supported Moral Monday protestors on its state website and Facebook page.

It has worked with ACLU, the NAACP, the Reverend William Barber and other liberal groups by filing lawsuits to advance their political agendas.

The UNC-Center’s lawsuit against the Pitt County School Board is an example.

When the school board passed a neighborhood school plan the UNC-Center called it ‘resegregation’ and promptly sued – which led to an odd event: Government lawyers (for the UNC-Center) arguing with government lawyers (paid by Pitt County) in court. Pitt County won the lawsuit, but only after spending $500,000 defending itself. That’s only the cost for one side, so taxpayers lost even more.

The UNC-Center has attacked multiple North Carolina counties. It filed three legal complaints against the Wake County School Board alone. How much did that cost taxpayers?

We also know one other fact: The Center flies the UNC brand like a flag. When it sued Pitt County School Board, it wasn’t a political group (like the ACLU) accusing the school board of ‘resegregating’ its schools. It was the University of North Carolina.

Last week, after a member of the UNC Board of Governors finally said, Enough – the News and Observer said he was trying to ‘muzzle liberals.’

But that’s another red-herring.

Will shutting the UNC Center mean a liberal professor won’t be able to advocate for his, or her, political beliefs? No.

Will closing the Center mean a liberal professor, or political activist, won’t be able to use state tax dollars to support his political beliefs? Yes.

And that’s the real issue. A state entity spending tax dollars on politics.

Last week, four members of the UNC Board of Governors proposed the University stop the UNC-Center’s political lawsuits. Unfortunately, so far, they’ve failed. Other trustees opted to ask the university’s administrators to conduct a ‘study’ instead.

It’s time for the Board of Governors, along with Margaret Spellings and Carol Folt, to openly and promptly address the UNC-Center’s political activity. If they fail to do that – if UNC sweeps the problem under the rug – then it will be time to ask another question: How well is the Board governing the university – and spending the taxpayers’ money?

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