Protect the Center for Civil Rights' legacy

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. 

Tim Longest

Defenders of Civil Rights

Class of ‘13

This statement is cosigned by the following organizations:

Defenders of Civil Rights  

UNC School of Law Student Bar Association

Elizabeth Adkins, UNC-Chapel Hill Student Body President

UNC-Chapel Hill Student Government Undergraduate Executive Branch

American Civil Liberties Union, Carolina Law Chapter

American Constitution Society, Carolina Law Chapter

Asian American Law Students Association

Black Congress

Black Student Movement

Black Law Students Association

Campus Y

Carolina Black Caucus

Carolina Feminist Coalition

Carolina Public Interest Law Organization

Center for Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Studies, UNC-Charlotte

Chapel Hill-Carrboro Branch of the NAACP

Christian Legal Society

Conference on Race, Class, Gender and Ethnicity

Death Penalty Project

Education Law and Policy Society

Entrepreneurial Law Association

Environmental Law Project

Faculty Forward Network

Hispanic Latino Law Students Association

Immigration Law Association

Invested Students of UNC Law

Jewish Law Association

Lambda Law Students Association

Law Students Against Sexual and Domestic Violence

Law Students for Reproductive Justice

Media Law Society

Native American Law Students Association

National Lawyers Guild, Carolina Law Chapter

N.C. Conference of American Association of University Professors 

Progressive Faculty Network, UNC-Chapel Hill

Rachel Carson Council

Sexuality and Gender Alliance

UNC Innocence Project

UNC Siren

UNC Young Democrats Executive Board

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