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UNC Law Professor Open New Anti-poverty Research Project

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. ― In the wake of the controversial closure of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s anti-poverty center, the law school professor who had led the center has launched a research fund outside the domain of university leaders.

WRAL-TV reports that professor Gene Nichol is leading the privately funded North Carolina Poverty Research Fund, which launched July 1.

In February, the university’s Board of Governors voted to force the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity to close, saying it did not serve the academic mission of the university and should not be housed there.

Nichol, a sharp critic of Republican lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory, called the board’s vote politically motivated, an assessment with which former UNC law school Dean Jack Boger agreed. Jim Holmes, the chairman of the working group that recommended the closures, denied that allegation.

Regardless of the motivations behind the decision, Nichol said he has found a way to continue the center’s work.

“Donors have indicated repeatedly that they are unwilling to see the crucial work of the Poverty Center driven from the halls of the university,” Nichol wrote on the website for the Institute of Southern Studies. “The Fund will assure that it continues, and that it continues in Chapel Hill. Censorship has [a] poor track record. It won’t prevail here either.”

Nichol said the fund has already secured support from individuals and foundations and he expects the project will operate on a larger scale than the center did.

UNC Board of Governors spokeswoman Joni Worthington said Nichol is allowed to pursue this project because it is his research.

“The Center has been closed and [Board] Chairman [John] Fennebresque understands that Professor Nichol is back in the classroom teaching a full load,” she said. “His research interests and the private funds that support them are not within the purview of the Board of Governors.”

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