Steven Long is a Raleigh tax attorney who was first elected to the BOG in 2013 and chairs the BOG governance committee. Long has represented multiple Republican legal interests; he defended Sen. Ralph Hise when he was investigated by the State Board of Elections for campaign finance violations, and Connect NC, a committee supporting Pat McCrory’s reelection campaign. Sen. Chad Barefoot sponsored Long’s election to the BOG in 2013; Long gave $500 to Barefoot that year.
Long is a staunch conservative who began his career as a legislative assistant to Republican Congressman Bill Cobey in 1984. More recently, Long contributed to the 2012 campaign for “Amendment 1,” a ballot initiative to make same-sex marriage unconstitutional in NC, and helped co-found Parents for Educational Freedom, a group that advocates for charters and vouchers. Board Member Darrell Allison is also a co-founder.
As a BOG member, Long is most known as the “driving force” behind the litigation ban on the UNC Center for Civil Rights.
Long made it his mission to investigate the UNC Center for Civil Rights and eventually bar the center from litigating in 2017. Two years prior, the BOG closed three centers: NC Central’s Institution for Civil Engagement and Social Change, ECU’s Center for Biodiversity, and UNC-Chapel Hill’s Center on Poverty Work and Opportunity. Long, a former Civitas board member, has focused on ideological issues since he joined the BOG and as part of his committee work, “grilled” professors and others about ideological diversity and perceived bias against conservatives. Specifically, he said there were “red flags” at the Center for Civil Rights, criticized the center for “failing to investigate the full range of civil rights,” and claimed that the center was “plagued by political activity and political bias” because it did not contain “diverse points of view.” Long used his Christian faith as the reason he could not possibly be against civil rights. Notably, one of Long’s former colleagues defended Brunswick County in an environmental case brought by the Center for Civil Rights that involved a waste dump planned next to an African-American community.
Long spearheaded the litigation ban even though he didn’t serve on the BOG’s committee on educational policy. His rationale for supporting the ban was that the organization was not staying on the university’s mission. He worked “relentlessly” to investigate the center by calling other law schools around the country and interviewing people about the center’s work. As the debate escalated, Long got into a “heated email exchange” with center leader and vocal critic of the Republican-controlled General Assembly Gene Nichol; Long even accused the professor of slander. In 2013 Civitas requested Gene Nichol’s emails become public.
Long also eyed cutting UNC health fees because he objected to the fees being used to pay for programming that promoted “diversity or social advocacy.” They funded educational skits about sexual education, racism, homophobia, and sexual assault.
Lately, Long has openly clashed with Board Chair Harry Smith, who Long previously worked with on a turnaround plan for Elizabeth City State University. Long, however, blames Smith for the resignation of Margaret Spellings and the ouster of ECU Chancellor Cecil Staton. Specifically, Long alleged in a written letter that Staton was “pushed out” by Smith over political disputes rather than an issue with the chancellor’s performance. He accused Smith of having an “irrational personal vendetta” and claimed that Smith sought to have Staton removed because Staton and ECU trustees rejected Smith’s 2016 proposal to buy an apartment complex near ECU. Long then claimed Smith became “obsessed” with removing the chancellor, deemed Smith’s action “persistent and extreme,” and said it consisted of “daily threats and attacks.”
“Harry Smith has done damage to the University of North Carolina system and particularly to East Carolina University. Until he is gone, Harry Smith will continue to do damage to our state’s greatest asset.”
from Comments Regarding the Departure of ECU Chancellor Cecil Staton, authored by Steve Long on March 18, 2019.
A few months prior Long also blamed Smith, who Long added “does not have a full-time job,” for Spelling’s resignation. Long said that Smith was bombarding Margaret Spellings with calls, texts, or emails multiple times a day. Long noted, “I do believe that the leadership of our board has gotten too involved in the management of the university in certain cases and that’s why Margaret Spellings is leaving. And that’s a tremendous loss. I feel like we’ve lost a great leader, and if she had been given greater authority, full authority to run the university, she would stay. She did love this job. She told me.”