Shortly after reading the news that the N.C. Central University law school could potentially host a constitutional law institute funded by conservative politico Art Pope, law school alumna Sarah Farber sent a letter to Dean Raymond Pierce, imploring him to vote against the proposal.
An affiliation with the Pope name would tarnish the NCCU brand, Farber wrote in her letter, which she also sent to the Indy.
“I want the Law School to continue its storied tradition of producing not just lawyers, not just legislators, but social engineers who fight for the rights of under-served and under-represented populations. I question the School’s ability to continue that bold mission if its funding is tied to Pope monies, funds that seem to be destined to undermine civil rights,” Farber wrote.
Pope, a business owner, former lawmaker and Republican activist, is a major funder of the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law. This month, the director of the institute wrote to NCCU proposing that NCICL locate a center on the NCCU campus in Durham. The proposal says Pope’s foundation would provide $600,000 start-up money for the center. The proposition also states putting the NCICL center on campus would enhance the constitutional and civil rights concentration at the law school.
An NCCU spokeswoman told the Indy last week that law school faculty are scheduled to vote on the matter in the next few weeks.
Read Farber’s entire letter on the jump.
(Editor’s Note: Letter has been edited to fit AP Style, author’s address has been redacted, author’s footnotes have been linked).
Sarah Jessica Farber
Dean Raymond Pierce
North Carolina Central University School of Law
640 Nelson Street
Durham, NC 27707
*via electronic mail
August 29, 2011
Dear Dean Pierce:
I am writing to implore you to vote against accepting the invitation from the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law to house a center at the North Carolina Central University School of Law. I value the name of the NCCU School of Law; I value what that name means. I believe an alliance with the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law would tarnish the name of NCCU School of Law and is not in the best interests of its current students, its alumni, or the community at large.
The N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law has received over $3.2 million from the John Wiliam Pope Foundation since its inception in 1994. Art Pope chairs the Foundation, and has served as treasurer of the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law and has served as chair and vice chair of its board of directors. Through his foundation and a cadre of corporate and non-profit offspring, Pope has bankrolled and led the conservative movement in North Carolina to the tune of more than $30 million.1 In the past 20 years, North Carolina and the rest of the country have seen a rollback of the civil rights that were hard earned in the 100 years before.
Is a connection with Art Pope, or Art Pope’s family’s money, tantamount to influence? It would be hyperbolic to declare that they are one and the same, but incredibly naive to claim that they are wholly separate entities.2 Therefore, I point out the following to show that the Pope name is not aligned with the protection of civil rights.
— Mr. Pope has been linked to the genesis of the movement in Wake County to “take back” the public school system. There are genuine concerns that the new majority in the school board is going to result in the resegregation of the public schools.3
— The Foundation was instrumental in funding the media campaign that targeted NCCU School of Law Alumni Chris Heagarty in the recent election. Heagarty was a 3L when he was appointed to fill the seat of a representative who had stepped down.4 Heagarty has a history of working for open government and on behalf of public energy cooperatives. He formerly directed the North Carolina Center for Voter Education, a nonpartisan initiative dedicating to allowing voters to be involved in their democracy at the ballot box and beyond. Mailings paid for by Pope-affiliated organizations Real Jobs NC and Civitas Action, Inc. said that Heagarty voted for a $1 billion tax increase, but Heagarty had not even been appointed to serve in the legislature at the time the vote was taken. The mailings cost a little over $70,000 and, I argue, yielded one house seat.5
— The John William Pope Civitas Institute has suggested that President Obama’s immigration proposal, which includes a type of qualified amnesty, will result in murderers being granted citizenship.6 There is no proof, no citation to the policy proposal, in this posting. It is inflammatory race-baiting.
— Civitas supported the Women’s Right to Know Act, an attempt to restrict the constitutionally-protected right of a woman to control her reproductive health.7 In so doing, Civitas promulgates misinformation, suggesting that Planned Parenthood used federal funds for something other than pregnancy prevention programs.8
— The Pope foundation has worked in support of voter ID laws that intimidate those who are not part of the establishment, despite a lack of statistical evidence of voter fraud.9 The voters affected include seniors, students, those living with disabilities, low-income citizens, and homeless persons, all of whom may not have photo identification cards.
Contrast these activities with those of the school of law. While I was a student in 2007, NCCU School of Law spent $25,000 in 2007 co-sponsoring a national civil rights conference entitled, “Why We Can’t Wait: Reversing the Retreat on Civil Rights” with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; the UNC Civil Rights Center, and the National Campaign to Restore Civil Rights. This is the work our law school was created to perpetuate. I want the law school to continue its storied tradition of producing not just lawyers, not just legislators, but social engineers who fight for the rights of under-served and under-represented populations. I question the school’s ability to continue that bold mission if its funding is tied to Pope monies, funds that seem to be destined to undermine civil rights.
Sarah Jessica Farber
Class of 2008
1 Chris Kromm, “The Art Pope empire: Media outlets, think tanks and election machines,” Independent Weekly, March 9, 2011.
2 But see the interview given by David Riggs, Vice President of Program Operations at the John William Pope Foundation, suggesting more of a link that one might imagine. Chris Kromm, “The Art Pope empire: Media outlets, think tanks and election machines,” Independent Weekly, March 9, 2011.
3 See, for example, Posting of T. Keung Hui to WakeEd blog, The News & Observer, Dec. 17, 2009.
4 “Chris Heagarty Newest Member of North Carolina’s House of Representatives,” The Weekly, Vol. 8, Iss. 13.
5 Rob Christensen, “Art Pope: a one-man Republican equalizer,” The News & Observer, Oct. 27, 2010.
6 Posting by Fancis De Luca to Civitas Review Online blog, Aug. 19, 2011. The post also missed the point on the law; entering the United States without proper documentation is not a crime. Re-entering after deportation is a crime. 8 U.S.C. § 1326 (2010).
7 Regina Conley, “Womens Right to Know Act Embodies “Pro-Choice Mentality”, July 5, 2011.
8 Posting by Neal Inman to Civitas Review Online blog, Aug. 22, 2011.
9 Chris Kromm, “Respect my Vote: Backlash Grows Against Voter ID Push”, Facing South, Feb. 17, 2009.