UNC Board of Governors repeals DEI policies

The consent agenda vote was 21-2 and backed by the UNC System president

UNC President Peter Hans, pictured in 2018, defended the Board of Governors’ decision to repeal the system’s diversity, equity and inclusion policies. (Gerry Broome / AP Photo)

RALEIGH — The UNC System Board of Governors approved a new policy to repeal and replace its previous diversity, equity and inclusion policies and requirements for the system’s 17 campuses.

The repeal and replace vote taken on the consent agenda was 21-2. The only no votes came from members Joel Ford and Sonja Phillips Nichols.

The new policy will emphasize equality and nondiscrimination over diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) concepts that critics and members of the UNC Board of Trustees (BOT) and Board of Governor (BOG) say are divisive and counterproductive.

The policy repeal aligns with a national trend to end DEI practices in higher education, most prominently noted in Florida under Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The replacement of section 300.8.5 of the UNC Policy Manual was approved during a BOG committee meeting on April 17. The changes include a prohibition on positions, departments or contractors from promoting ideas that do not align with “institutional neutrality,” and requires campuses to report any resulting job cuts or spending reductions to redirect funds to student success initiatives.

While the policy’s immediate impact remains unclear pending legal guidance, the UNC Chapel Hill Board of Trustees has already voted to eliminate $2.3 million in annual DEI spending and divert it to campus safety.

UNC System President Peter Hans told reporters the BOT did not have the authority to make the funding diversion call, and the funding would be directed to other purposes tied to “student success programs.”

“They’re going to trust the chancellor and their teams on campus to be able to reinvest those funds in something that is working on their campus,” Hans told media outlets after the meeting. “Now, they’re all called different things on every campus, and they may have slightly different points of emphasis because there are different student populations.”

Hans defended the decision, emphasizing universities must remain neutral while allowing debates on political and social issues. He also said the UNC System will continue to follow state and federal laws governing nondiscrimination.

“Non-discrimination, institutional neutrality, free expression and academic freedom are all mutually reinforcing concepts and values,” Hans said during the BOG meeting. “We are here to serve all, not just those who agree with us. When these principles are faithfully held, they allow diversity in all forms to thrive.”

The decision faced opposition from a couple dozen students who protested outside the board meeting. The protesters got into a confrontation with NC State University Police when they tried to enter the building where the meeting was being held. Two students were arrested during the altercation.

Samuel Johnathan Scarborough, 19, was arrested and charged with second-degree criminal trespass and resisting a public officer. Records show Scarborough is a UNC Chapel Hill student.

Scarborough is a known campus activist with March for Our Lives, and a profile of him in the Durham Voice states that growing up in the south side of Durham is “a space he characterizes as the origin of his progressive activism.”

Derrick Davis William, 23, was arrested and charged with assault on a government employee and resisting a public officer. Publicly available information shows Williams is a graduate student at NC Central University and was an undergraduate at UNC Chapel Hill.

During the BOG meeting, a resolution honoring law enforcement was introduced and accompanied by a presentation of the work UNC Campus police did in handling campus protester situations in recent weeks.

The presentation noted that “several students were determined to be threats to the safety of the campus community” and those students have been “barred from campus.”

The presentation also included that the attorney general is considering charges against students arrested on April 20 and the “administration (is) working on negotiations.”

About A.P. Dillon 1320 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_