It’s no secret that UNC Chapel Hill law school professor Gene Nichol and many Republican legislators don’t much like each other. Civitas has written frequently on Gene Nichol’s questionable activities (see here) as the former head of the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity.
The latest chapter of this ongoing saga concerns the UNC Chapel Hill Law School. The tensions derive from a variety of reasons. Republican-appointed members to the Board of Governors voted to end the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, a center Nichol headed. Nichol has responded by skewering Republican politicians in the local paper, saying they kowtow only to the rich and ignore the poor. Other Republican legislators believe the UNC law school faculty is too liberal and something should be done to change it.
All the tension got very real earlier this year when the North Carolina State Senate included a provision calling for a 30 percent reduction in the UNC Chapel Hill Law School budget; a provision equivalent to budget reduction of $4 million dollars. It’s a big number certainly intended to send a message. The final State budget however included only $500,000 budget reduction for the law school, no doubt thanks to the work of UNC lobbyists and law school advocates
Most people think that when you read that a department of agency budget is reduced, it’s reflected in real numbers. That’s not the case here. It’s hard to know if the budget for the UNC Law School was actually reduced. Page 7 of a Committee on Budget and Finance document, prepared for the September UNC Board of Governors meeting, references, the budget reduction:
UNC-CH School of Law The legislature reduced the state funding to UNC-CH’s School of Law by $500,000 (4% reduction). The funds were reduced from UNC-Chapel Hill, Academic Affairs.
It should be noted that all funding for academic programs at UNC Chapel Hill flows through the Office of Academic Affairs. As such according to the budget narrative, the state appropriated $500,000 less in funds that it sent to the UNC CH Office of Academic Affairs. Are those changes reflected in the law school budget? We don’t know. As any university administrator knows, moving money around is an art and it is quite easy to hide or circumvent budget changes
This question could be easily answered if we could obtain a comprehensive and timely budget document for UNC schools and departments. Don’t hold your breath however. Such documents have been difficult to access for years. If they were easy, I doubt we’d be having this conversation.
My guess is there are legislators interested in finding out if the UNC Law School actually had a budget reduction. Until then it looks like all the barking between Nichol and Republican politicians has produced little bite out of the law school budget — and even less willingness to do anything about it.