A controversial proposal to bring a center for the N.C. Constitution to the N.C. Central University law school is now off the table.
The proposal was withdrawn in a letter Tuesday from Bob Orr, a former state Supreme Court justice and director for the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law. In the letter to NCCU School of Law Dean Raymond Pierce, Orr said he had a change of heart.
"...for the past several months it has become increasingly clear that my time and efforts can be best spent elsewhere," Orr wrote in the letter (PDF). "Starting a Center at the Law School is now clearly inconsistent with the direction I prefer to go in my career. Therefore, I am respectfully withdrawing the proposal I submitted."
The letter alluded only vaguely to the controversy brewing in recent weeks surrounding the proposal to locate a center for study of the state constitution at the law school in Durham, with Orr as the inaugural director. Orr was an adjunct law professor at the school for more than 10 years.
"While I have been appreciative of the positive comments I have received about the proposal, there have also been unfortunate misapprehensions about the governance and mission of such a Center," Orr wrote. In an interview Friday, Orr added that he's answered questions about how the center would have operated, but they apparently lingered.
Orr said he originally started talking to Pierce about forming a center at NCCU last spring, but that the process has dragged on much longer than he expected, and because of other priorities, he decided he no longer wanted to be involved. Both in his letter and by phone, Orr said that the law school needed to be "enthusiastically supportive" of the idea. Overwhelmingly, that was not the case.
Alumni of the law school and other members of the NCCU community sent letters and emails to law school faculty against the proposal because its initial three years of funding would come from the Pope Foundation—an organization led by former Republican legislator and conservative activist Art Pope. (See one flier passed out at NCCU, PDF)
Update: Former Director of Housekeeping Services Bill Burston "is no longer employed" by UNC as of Wednesday, a campus spokeswoman confirmed Friday. Burston was removed from his director role in June amid employee complaints and reassigned to a new role. University Mail Services Director Lea Holt was named interim. The school will begin a search for a new full-time director immediately.
PRM Consulting, the Washington, D.C., firm UNC hired in March to investigate claims of discrimination, harassment and other poor working conditions in its housing department, released 45 recommendations for change Thursday, including a new performance evaluation for managers and an audit or all new hires and promotions.
Surveys with 400 housekeeping employees revealed “a culture with employee morale issues, lack of trust and overall frustration.”
At least 30 percent or those queried disagreed or strongly disagreed that work assignments are made fairly, that management promotes an environment of respect and dignity, free of harassment, discrimination and intimidation and that management cares about the welfare of its employees.
Results were detailed to housekeepers at three closed-to-the-media meetings Thursday to cover all shifts, before the report was publicly released.
Last year, the Indy reported that housekeepers were being suspended without pay for taking their entitled breaks. Housekeepers and their supporters rallied and delivered a collective grievance to Thorp.
In June, we reported that housekeeper Amanda Hulon filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against supervisor Wade Farrington stating that he offered her a promotion in exchange for sex and touched her inappropriately.
In his memo to faculty and staff, Thorp announced 10 steps to respond to the report, among them: establishing an advisory committee of housekeeping employees, conducting a study of salaries in the department to determine possible pay discrepancies and reviewing and revising recruitment and hiring practices,
“As expected, the report makes it clear that Housekeeping Services has substantial issues that the University must address. More importantly, the report also offers a host of recommendations and potential action items that we can consider, on both a short- and long-term basis,” Thorp wrote.
“I am absolutely committed to making things right in Housekeeping Services. We have been working to fix these problems, but those sincere attempts have fallen short.”
Look for analysis and more on the consultant’s report in Wednesday’s print edition.
Shortly after reading the news that the N.C. Central University law school could potentially host a constitutional law institute funded by conservative politico Art Pope, law school alumna Sarah Farber sent a letter to Dean Raymond Pierce, imploring him to vote against the proposal.
An affiliation with the Pope name would tarnish the NCCU brand, Farber wrote in her letter, which she also sent to the Indy.
"I want the Law School to continue its storied tradition of producing not just lawyers, not just legislators, but social engineers who fight for the rights of under-served and under-represented populations. I question the School’s ability to continue that bold mission if its funding is tied to Pope monies, funds that seem to be destined to undermine civil rights," Farber wrote.
Pope, a business owner, former lawmaker and Republican activist, is a major funder of the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law. This month, the director of the institute wrote to NCCU proposing that NCICL locate a center on the NCCU campus in Durham. The proposal says Pope's foundation would provide $600,000 start-up money for the center. The proposition also states putting the NCICL center on campus would enhance the constitutional and civil rights concentration at the law school.
An NCCU spokeswoman told the Indy last week that law school faculty are scheduled to vote on the matter in the next few weeks.
Read Farber's entire letter on the jump.
An N.C. Central University spokeswoman confirmed late Thursday that the director of the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law has proposed locating a center at NCCU's law school with money from conservative Raleigh businessman Art Pope.
Faculty at the law school are scheduled to vote on the matter in the next few weeks, said Cindy Fobert, a spokeswoman for the university. (Read a copy of the Aug. 19 proposal, submitted by former N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice Bob Orr, the Institute's director (PDF).
The website for the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law describes itself as a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public about and litigating constitutional issues.
The proposal calls for a center that would collaborate with the UNC School of Government, and with NCCU's history department to develop scholarly study of constitutional issues, fitting with the law school's concentration in Civil Rights and Constitutional Law. The proposal suggests that Orr be the center's first executive director. It states that the Pope Foundation would provide $600,000 over three years to pay for a staff position, a part-time executive director and initial programming.
As the Indy and Facing South reported in March, the Institute has received large contributions from the Pope Foundation.
Pope is the treasurer of the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law and has served as chair and vice chair of its board of directors. The institute, founded in 2003, has received more than $3.2 million from the Pope Foundation, according to the Indy and Facing South reports.
The news was noted earlier today by progressive blogger James Protzman on BlueNC, who received an anonymous e-mail from a member of the NCCU faculty opposed to the proposal.
Pope, controversial for his involvement in the election of the new conservative majority on the Wake County school board, as well as his affiliation to national conservative groups, has contributed money to several universities through his family's foundation, and through other organizations that he leads.
But his largesse hasn't always been well received. In 2004, after proposing contributions for a new "Studies in Western Civilization" curriculum at UNC-Chapel Hill, several university faculty said Pope was trying to use the money to create courses to promote his own right-wing agenda.
Also this week, Orr was appointed by state House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican, to the WUNC-TV Board of Trustees. Orr was one of four new appointees.
The candidate-filing period opened with a flourish Friday in Orange County as mayors from Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough all signed up to defend their seats and challengers emerged in the Chapel Hill Town Council and Board of Alderman races.
In Chapel Hill, Lee Storrow and August Cho filed as expected, and Laney Dale, a tech entrepreneur who moved to town four years ago, joined the race for the four open positions on the nine- member, including the mayor, council.
He is the CEO and founder of two start-up companies, Appuware and Appubater, which create computer and mobile applications. Appuwhere allows customers to be developers. Appubater accepts ideas from clients and partners to realize them.
Both businesses are located in Durham, and Dale says Chapel Hill needs to work to make it easier for businesses to establish offices there.
Cloaked in Hawaiian T-shirts with tongues planted firmly in cheeks, leis around necks, cone-shaped party hats on scalps and noisemakers in mouths, members of the progressive Together N.C. coalition threw a send-off party to North Carolina on Wednesday morning on the Halifax Mall, bidding adieu to the state’s ability to thrive, they said.
“We’re here to say what makes this state great is ask risk,” said Louisa Warren, co-coordinator of Together N.C. and a policy advocate at the N.C. Justice Center.
The group handed out “pink slips” and offered cake and lemonade.
Rep. Earline Parmon, D-Forsyth, stopped by to sign an oversized greeting card that read, “We’ll miss the good times, N.C.”
Chapel Hill High School alumnus James Barrett announced today his candidacy for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education.
“We as a community share a set of goals and values for our school district. Now is the time to do things a little differently to make real progress on those goals,” he stated in a press release.
Barrett, who also attended Seawell Elementary School and Phillips Middle School, moved back to the Triangle in 1995 after working in Atlanta, and says the time is ripe for reform. New superintendent Thomas Forcella will take the reins July 1 replacing Neil Pedersen, who will step down after 19 years, which makes him the longest tenured superintendent in the district’s history.
Governor Bev Perdue will let House Bill 129, the anti-municipal broadband bill become law today, opting to neither sign nor veto the legislation before the midnight deadline.
She issued a statement (full text below) saying she both wants every North Carolinian to have Internet access and seeks rules to prevent cities from having “an unfair advantage over providers in the private sector.”
It's only the second day of the session and already the GOP is ramping up the hate machine:
First up, undocumented immigrants.
House bill 11, sponsored by state Rep. George Cleveland, a Republican from Onslow County, would prohibit undocumented immigrants from attending North Carolina colleges and universities.
Currently, undocumented immigrants may attend these schools, but only under certain restrictions. For example, they must pay out-of-state tuition, which is as much as four times more expensive than in-state rates.
You can read the text of the bill here: H11v0.pdf
The N.C. Central University administration has publicly condemned the trashing of hundreds of copies of the student newspaper, done in apparent retaliation over two controversial stories published over the last six weeks.
“Attempts to suppress unpleasant news are offensive and contrary to everything we stand for at our university, where the free exchange of information should not be impeded,” wrote NCCU Associate Provost Debbie Thomas in a campuswide e-mail.
Campus Echo Editor Ashley Griffin wrote an editorial this week defending the stories, adding, “I am troubled that some of my fellow Eagles would stoop so low as to attempt to suppress news that they find inconvenient. Your behavior is petty and childish. And it will not work.”
“Business School Blues,” published Oct. 6, covered the controversy over the dismissal of NCCU Business School Dean Bijoy Sahoo, who was replaced after a review by a university task force questioned his leadership. Shortly afterward, hundreds of newspapers disappeared from the Willis Commerce Building.
Hundreds of papers also disappeared from near the sociology building and student union and were found in a dumpster after the Echo published a story Nov. 3, “Sociability Shortage in Sociology.” The article detailed a conflict between student Dontravis Swain, later suspended from the university, and assistant professor of sociology, Dana Greene.
Greene, according to the article, had allegedly claimed that a white student of hers, Robert Mihaly, was racist after he wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the likeness of Martin Luther King Jr. that read “UNC system racist” because N.C. Central doesn’t offer organic, non-genetically modified foods in its cafeteria.
Swain and Mihaly got into an argument in the classroom over the T-shirt i, which escalated when Swain allegedly began arguing with Greene. She alleged that Swain pushed her, but some students have disputed that account.
Campus Echo Adviser Bruce dePyssler told the Indy he doesn’t know who is dumping the papers, but according to the Student Press Law Center, it is illegal. Charges include larceny, petty theft, criminal mischief or destruction of property.