Pope Center Questions Poverty Research Fund

Today, the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy called into question the ethics and legality of Gene Nichol’s move to reopen the Center for Poverty, Work, and Opportunity under a new name.

In an article on the Pope Center’s website entitled, “Gene Nichol’s Poverty Fund Is About the Politics, Not the Poverty,” State Policy Director Jay Schalin points out that the new “Poverty Research Fund” differs from the Center, which the UNC Board of Governors voted to close, only in name.

In the article, Jay Schalin states:

“Nichol himself describes how ‘the purpose of the Fund is to carry forward earlier efforts by the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity.’ Both are or were funded primarily by private resources, and much is made of the fact that the new center has raised its own funds. But it continues to use UNC resources and function as an academic unit within the Law School, just as the earlier center did. It has a UNC website, uses the UNC email system, and even conducts fundraising on the Law School website, with the money run through the law school’s Office of Advancement.”

The move by UNC-Chapel Hill and the Law School likely flouted the school’s own rules. Schalin explains, “At Chapel Hill, a center proposal is a two-step process, with well-developed planning and establishment phases. Both phases require approval by the provost.”

The Pope Center suggested that in order to satisfy the letter and the spirit of the Board of Governors’ directive, the new Poverty Fund should be totally private. Schalin writes that “if Nichol’s real concern were to start an organization that advocates for the poor according to his beliefs, he would have taken the proper route of creating a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is totally independent of the university. Such a non-profit would not be bound by university mandates to be academic and apolitical—he could politically advocate all he wants from any perspective he chooses.”

Pope Center’s President Jenna A. Robinson has affirmed this perspective. “It should have its own website, its own staff, and its own off-campus office. It should also be established as a 501(c)3 organization separate from the University,” she states.

The John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy is a nonprofit institute dedicated to improving higher education in North Carolina and the nation. For more information on the Pope Center, visit http://www.popecenter.org.