Phi Beta Cons

Poverty and Academia Have Been Very Good to Me!

Gene Nichol is a law professor who now runs the Center for Poverty, Work, and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (the Center was founded with the difficult mission of making former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards sound smart). Nichol is sort of the poster child for many of the problems in higher education.

For one, Nichol is a more of a left-wing activist than an objective scholar. For another, he has managed to “fail up” for much of his career, moving to increasingly better jobs despite poor performance at his previous positions. He went from the dean of Colorado’s Law School to dean of UNC-Chapel Hill’s more-exclusive law school (losing badly in Democratic primary races for U.S. Senator along the way). Both law schools dropped significantly in U.S. News rankings, as well as other measures such as fundraising, while he was in charge. (Scholarship and teaching, though more difficult to measure, would have also been likely to drop under his guidance).

For those dismal performances, he was rewarded with the prestigious position of president of the College of William and Mary in Virginia. It wasn’t long before the alumni of that school ran him out of town on a rail for offending both tradition and common sense. But not to worry: Nichol’s replacement at UNC’s law school immediately offered both him and his law professor wife sinecures safe from the storm clouds of accountability. 

In today’s American Spectator, Paul Chesser describes how Nichol lives a life of luxury while presenting himself as North Carolina’s leading expert on poverty and inequality, thanks to UNC’s largesse.



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