Law Prof Who Specializes in Poverty Makes $205,400 – Teaching One Class Per Semester

by Lauren Cooley - Furman University on June 27, 2014

UNC law professor’s holdings include $1.5M in real estate, and meanwhile he chastises Republicans for their ‘unforgivable war on poor people’

A controversial, outspoken law professor who frequently bashes Republicans and specializes in poverty issues as a self-proclaimed champion of the poor earns $205,400 per year – for teaching one class per semester.

The University of North Carolina School of Law pays Professor Gene Nichol $205,400 annually for his one class per semester workload. On top of his teaching salary, he receives a $7,500 stipend as director of the law school’s Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity.

The News & Observer maintains a public database of public employee and educator salaries, and lists Nichol’s salary at $212,900. Nichol, in an email to The College Fix, confirmed the figure is accurate.Nichol

Nichol is slated to teach federal jurisdiction this fall and constitutional law in spring 2015.

He told The College Fix there is nothing unusual about his compensation.

“I’m a full time faculty member – doing all the varied things faculty members do,” he stated. “That’s the basis for the salary you quote. Beyond that, I’m paid $7,500 to run the poverty center – the same as all the other law school center directors.”

When asked about his compensation compared to other law professors, Nichol said: “Several make a good deal more than I do at Carolina, some make less.”

The News & Observer lists the UNC Distinguished Professor of Law Thomas Lee Hazen’s salary at $222,000. However, he is slated to teach four classes this fall, and two in the spring. UNC Distinguished Professor of Law Sarah Elizabeth Gibson earns $200,000 annually, and has a similar workload to Nichol at one class per semester.

Assistant and associate professors at the UNC School of Law tend to earn about $130,000 annually, according to the News & Observer database. Their work load ranges from one class per semester up to four.

As for Nichol, in the past he served as president of the College of William and Mary from 2005 to 2008, that is, until his contract was not renewed following a string of controversies.

Among them, he allowed a sex workers’ art show on campus and removed a cross from permanent display in the chapel of the historic Christopher Wren building, citing the facility’s use for secular events.

Prior to that, Nichol was the dean of UNC’s law school from 1999 to 2005.

Today at UNC, Nichol runs the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, which was founded by the now-disgraced Democrat John Edwards. The center is a self-proclaimed non-partisan, interdisciplinary institute that aims to study and mitigate poverty in North Carolina and the nation.

In his leadership role there, Nichol is known to use inflammatory political rhetoric.

For example, on the center’s website he writes that “the scourge of debilitating poverty is the largest problem faced by the people of North Carolina – even if our political leaders ignore it, or declare, with a breathtaking stupidity, that it doesn’t exist.” North Carolina has a Republican-controlled majority of lawmakers.

Yet while Nichol champions the poor – even chastising Republicans in a March News & Observer op-ed for its “unforgivable war on poor people” – it’s unclear how well he can relate to those living in poverty.

His wife, chief of staff for the UNC Health Care System and the UNC School of Medicine, earns $407,000 annually. Combining his and his wife’s salary, the couple makes at least $612,000 per year.

The Nichol family lives in a Chapel Hill home with a tax value of more than $1 million. They also own a bungalow on the beach at Emerald Isle, valued by Carteret County at more than $512,000. In the summer months, Nichol rents his four-bedroom bungalow for nearly $2,000 per week.

When asked by The College Fix about the large inequality between his income and the income of those in poverty, Nichol refused to respond.

The issue of the UNC poverty center’s funding has also been the source of contention in the past because of its ties to Edwards, so much so that campus officials dedicated a webpage to detailing its financing.

It reads in part: “*Nichol earns $7,500 as a stipend for serving as the Center director. This is in addition to his salary as the Boyd Tinsley Distinguished Professor of Law at UNC School of Law.”

Nichol may have earned special attention regarding his salary and role there after he became well-known in North Carolina as a radical, left-leaning writer.

Even the News & Observer describes him as a “well-known liberal,” and he publishes regularly in The Progressive Populist and has written for The Nation, the Washington Post and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

His work has been so polarizing in the past that when Nichol publishes op-eds, UNC has asked him to give the administration a couple days’ heads up because he has angered so many people. UNC also asks that his columns include the phrase: “He doesn’t speak for UNC.”

This unusual request came as the result of a column Nichol wrote last October, in which he offered a scathing review of North Carolina’s Republican Governor Pat McCrory in the News & Observer. In the piece, Nichol referred to McCrory as “hapless Pat” and wrote that McCrory was “a 21st century successor to Maddox, Wallace and Faubus,” referring to three 1960s-era segregationist governors.

When Nichol writes about topics other than poverty, UNC asks he leave his title at the university out completely.

Nichol’s writings have caught the ire of many, including the North-Carolina based John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, which states that “Nichol is a radical partisan who has desperately ratcheted up his rhetoric after seeing his preferred party lose control in North Carolina for the first time in more than a hundred years.”

“Perhaps more disturbing is Nichol’s abuse of his stature at UNC-Chapel Hill to propagate his invective.”

College Fix Contributor Lauren Cooley is a recent graduate of Furman University.

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IMAGE: Main – 401K, Flickr; Inside – Nichol

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