UNC students call proposed ban on Center for Civil Rights a political attack
Posted September 7
Chapel Hill, N.C. — University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students on Thursday marched to support the university’s Center for Civil Rights.
The march through campus was meant to rally support ahead of an expected vote Friday, when the Board of Governors could decide to ban the Center for Civil Rights from filing lawsuits.
"To the Board of Governors, somebody is watching you," said James Williams Jr. with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP. "What this center stands for is equal access to justice."
The center has supported poor and disenfranchised people in court, litigating cases involving discrimination in education, employment and housing, among other things.
According the UNC School of Law website, the Center for Civil Rights was founded in 2001 and aims to use community-based impact advocacy and legal education to secure economic, social and environmental justice for low wealth and minority families and neighborhoods.
The center's goals are to advocate for minority and low-income populations, influence polices at the local, state and national levels and prepare future attorneys to continue to secure fair and equal opportunities for the people they serve.
"It is a broad-reaching ban on advocacy in general," said Elizabeth Haddix, a civil rights law professor with the UNC Center for Civil Rights. "Those folks are going to lose their advocate."
Some board members say the center’s work strays from the school’s educational purpose and they want to ban it. Supporters of the center say a ban on that work would be an attack on civil rights.
Board members who supported the proposed ban say UNC's School of Law should focus less on litigation and more on teaching and learning.
"I hope this will help the UNC Law School focus. I think multi-tasking is over-rated. I think if you're going to be an academic center, you need to focus on your academics," said Joe Knott, who voted for the proposal.
Speakers at the march call the proposed ban a political attack. They say the Center for Civil Rights receives no state funds and say the litigation work is an excellent teaching tool for future attorneys.
UNC Chancellor Carol Folt has come out in support of the center.
Protests are also planned at the Board of Governors meeting on Friday.