TO THE EDITOR:
On Friday, the UNC Board of Governors imposed a policy banning the UNC Center for Civil Rights from engaging in advocacy for clients. The ban on the Center’s work prohibits the Center from representing clients in any capacity. The policy forbids the Center from “act[ing] as legal counsel,” meaning it won't be allowed to give any legal advice to anyone. The policy also bans the Center from referring clients to other lawyers or helping them find legal assistance in any way. This policy effectively ends the work of the Center for Civil Rights and the legacy of Julius Chambers at UNC School of Law.
Defenders of Civil Rights and the undersigned UNC student organizations and community partners condemn this vote. There can be no meaningful civil rights work for communities and no legitimate civil rights training for students at UNC Law under this policy. The ban will prevent UNC School of Law from fulfilling its mission of public service to all North Carolinians by depriving low-wealth communities across the state of access to justice. It also limits the educational experience of students at the law school, many of whom came to UNC Law specifically to do the kind of civil rights, social justice and public interest work that the Center exemplifies.
The Board of Governors policy specifically exempts legal clinics from its coverage. Any civil rights program at UNC School of Law must include practical legal experience and direct representation of underserved communities. We call on UNC Law School administration and faculty to make the Center for Civil Rights a clinical project of the law school, to ensure the continued legacy of Julius Chambers and the essential work of the Center he created.