Exclusive: UNC Chapel Hill responds to NC Rep Hardister on diversity training 

Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz says training is 'under review' and 'on hold'

FILE - In this Wednesday, March 18, 2020, file photo, people remove belongings on campus at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., amid the coronavirus pandemic. As more universities keep classes online this fall, it’s leading to conflict between students who say they deserve tuition discounts and college leaders who insist remote learning is worth the full cost. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

RALEIGH — UNC Chapel Hill has responded to a state legislator’s inquiry regarding “diversity training” that took place earlier this fall.  

In early November, State Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford) sent a letter to UNC Chapel Hill and UNC System officials inquiring about “equity, diversity and inclusion” training that members of school’s Greek System were allegedly forced to attend. 

Hardister’s letter describes the training as having an oppressor versus oppressed theme, which is a core tenet of the controversial Critical Race Theory. One part of the training, which went viral, was about how right-handed people are privileged while left-handed people are “disempowered.” Other topics Hardister included in his inquiry involved “white privilege” and how “whiteness” pervades society. 

In a Nov. 30 letter obtained by North State Journal, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said the Oct. 18 event was “sponsored” by the office of UNC-CH Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL). 

Guskiewicz wrote that the session “focused on intellectual wellness” and confirmed the guest speaker was Christina Parle and said she was paid “$4,000” using FSL member fees.  

The chancellor’s description of the training is similar to that of Cassie Hughes Thomas, the assistant director of FSL.  

“Fraternity and Sorority Life is hosting an ongoing educational programming series based on eight dimensions of wellness, which range from financial skills to career building,” Thomas said in a statement. “Our recent meeting focused on intellectual wellness, and guest speaker Christina Parle presented on the topic of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.” 

Parle is the co-founder of Social Responsibility Speaks (SRS), which offers a variety of services related to “diversity challenges” in companies and organizations.  

“Social Responsibility Speaks™’ mission is to create a culture of belonging and mattering through a focus on equity, inclusion, and justice,” reads SRS’ mission statement. 

“I have been assured that this was the only contact the University has had with the speaker’s organization in the past three years,” Guskiewicz wrote.  

Sometime after the UNC-CH training went viral, SRS deactivated Parle’s bio. The bio, however, is preserved on the Internet Wayback Machine and lists Parle as an “equity, inclusion, and diversity (EID) speaker, consultant, and instructional designer.” 

Guskiewicz’s letter goes on to say the program had been “mischaracterized as mandatory” and that it was “exclusively offered” to members of UNC Chapel Hill’s Greek System. He also said attendance was not required but that Greek chapters sent a “percentage of their members” to the event.  

“You should know that I have now met with several students who attended the session to help me better understand the nature of the session and the students’ response to it,” the chancellor wrote. “There were mixed reactions to the content presented and while many found it useful, clearly others did not.” 

Guskiewicz added that “Regardless, the series is now on hold and under review.” He also said the series would be “reevaluated” in 2022 before any new sessions were offered.  

Hardister tells North State Journal he appreciates Chancellor Guskiewicz taking the time to respond and that he is glad that the program is on hold and under review.  

“I am hopeful that leadership at UNC-Chapel Hill, as well as leadership across the UNC System, will take steps to address matters of this nature,” said Hardister. “There is more work to do to ensure that students are not subjected to ideological programs that cause mistrust and division.” 

“I will be following-up with Chancellor Guskiewicz and other leaders in the UNC System to determine what actions, if any, have been taken to address these concerns,” Hardister said. “Our objective must be to bring students together, promote respect and embrace diversity, rather than driving students apart. I am also exploring options for the General Assembly to take action to provide a framework as to what type of mandatory training programs are permissible.”

About A.P. Dillon 753 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_