Recent events in the state of North Carolina pose a serious threat to academic freedom in our nation. America's universities are, by any measure, the best in the world. What has made that possible is our deep commitment to academic freedom.The recent decision of the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina to close the University of North Carolina Law School's Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity is a blatant and dangerous instance of political interference with academic freedom.
Although the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity has accomplished a great deal in recent years, its mission and its director, Gene Nichol, a distinguished scholar and academic administrator who has served as dean of the University of Colorado Law School and as president of College of William and Mary, have clearly alienated the Koch brother-backed legislators who now control both the state legislature and the University's Board of Governors.
In the guise of trimming the university's budget, the Board has decided to shutter three of the 240 boards, centers, and institutes that operate within the state university system. By coincidence, they decided to close the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity with the patently false explanation that the Center was unproductive. Anyone who has examined the work of the Center knows that this claim is bogus. The plain and simple fact is that both the Center and its director advocate positions that the Tea Party powers-that-be in North Carolina do not like.
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