Race Relations Center Prompts Location Debate

Article excerpt

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- A proposed university race relations center designed to promote understanding and equality has prompted debate over whether a University of North Carolina system campus should house such a program.

Legislators last year proposed giving $500,000 toward building the Martin Luther King Race Relations Center at North Carolina State University. Instead, the General Assembly asked the university's Board of Governors to recommend a home for the center.

The board decided to set up a task force to find an appropriate place for the center and an appropriate relationship between the center and the university. But supporters and critics are unclear whether a university is the best place for the center.

The center "is more activism and advocacy than scholarship," board member Ray Farris said when the plans first came before the board. Activism and advocacy aren't the business of universities, Farris says. The university's job is different.

"I'm not saying good or bad," Farris says, "but it's different."

Bruce Lightner, the other co-chairman, says anyone who doesn't understand the center's aims hasn't read the material made available to the Board of Governors. He describes the facility as "a scholarly research center coupled with training and outreach."

One reason North Carolina State was proposed as a home for the King Center is the proximity of UNC-based institutes that deal with African American history, culture and issues. …