DURHAM, N.C. (AP)—An offer to establish a constitutional law center at North Carolina Central University law school has been withdrawn after some faculty and alumni expressed concern that $600,000 in startup funds would come from a major financial backer of conservative causes.
The offer to create a center for the study of state constitutional law was brought to NCCU in August by former state Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, an alumnus who proposed funding the center with grants from the John William Pope Foundation.
Republicans take over the legislature last year for the first time in more than a century. His increasing prominence is the subject of a major profile in The New Yorker magazine next week.
Orr decided to withdraw from the project after a number of NCCU law school alumni objected to Pope's involvement, he told The News and Observer of Raleigh (http://bit.ly/oYLtIK )..
"I thought it was important for the law school and important for the state," Orr said. "Some folks just don't like Art Pope. Art was simply trying to help."
The center, with Orr as its director, would have conducted scholarship research on the history and development of the North Carolina Constitution and contemporary issues, Orr said. The only similar organization is at Rutgers University in New Jersey, Orr said.
Orr is executive director of the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law, an organization funded in large part with Pope-foundation money. It has education projects but also has an advocacy role in filing litigation. Orr also is a longtime adjunct law professor at NCCU and a member of the Board of Visitors.
The Popes, through their foundation, have given a considerable amount of money over the years to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, Campbell University and other campuses. Most of a $2.3 million gift to UNC-CH in 2006 went to the sports program.
In 2005, the Pope foundation offered to donate $4.9 million for the study of Western cultures at UNC-Chapel Hill, an idea that was withdrawn after faculty opposition.
Though Orr has withdrawn his proposal, Pope said he would still listen if the NCCU law school sought funding for a constitutional center.
"If N.C. Central wants to proceed with a proposal for a center on North Carolina constitutional law without Bob Orr, they are free to do so and submit it to the John William Pope Foundation. I would look forward to receiving such a proposal," Pope said.
Law school Dean Raymond Pierce said that with the law school facing so many other needs, it was unlikely that officials would pursue it.
Information from: The News & Observer, http://www.newsobserver.com