Politics have derailed a proposed state constitutional law research center at North Carolina Central University School of Law.
The center was first proposed last spring by the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law, a nonprofit that bills itself as a nonpartisan organization dedicated to education about the constitution and litigation. But some law faculty members and alumni raised concern that the $600,000 startup funding for the center, which would be independent from the institute, would come from Art Pope, a prominent Raleigh businessman known for his staunchly conservative views and for his financial support of Republicans.
The law school’s curriculum committee was slated to meet on Oct. 5 to make a recommendation about the proposed center, but Institute Executive Director Robert Orr sent a letter to law dean Raymond Pierce on Sept. 27 revoking the offer to locate the center at the school.
“This thing has dragged on for months now, and I finally said, “There are other things I’d rather be doing,” Orr said on Friday.
In his letter, Orr said that there have been “unfortunate misapprehensions about the governance and mission of such a center.”
Pierce said Friday that some alumni felt an association with Pope was incompatible with the law school’s mission.
“Art Pope is very active in politics, and people take politics personally,” he said. “It’s hard to disconnect politics from certain programs. Some alumni saw this center as linked to local political action.”
Instead of politics, Pierce said the law school’s curriculum committee had been weighing how the center would operate, where it would be housed, and how it would be funded after Pope’s three year financial commitment.
North Carolina Central is not the only law school to face questions in recent months about a potential donor. At least one faculty member at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law last month publicly opposed the acceptance of a $10 million donation from alum Lowell Milken, who was investigated by securities regulators in the 1980s for his role in the junk bond market.
Karen Sloan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.