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Attack on DEI: Statement from the Black Student Movement

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The Black Student Movement has consistently been a leading force in advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion policies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. However, on April 17, the UNC System’s Board of Governors swiftly moved without much discussion to consider cutting DEI initiatives across the state’s 17-campus system.

These potential cuts, outlined in section 300.8.5 of the UNC Policy Manual include the very foundations of diversity and inclusion on all UNC campuses, the centers and scholastic supports housed under them, and the mandate for DEI officers at each institution.

Unfortunately, this action does not serve as the first open attack. Just last week, two members of the University’s Board of Trustees publicly criticized DEI efforts, asserting that "DEI simply causes divisiveness" while encouraging the removal of all DEI funding from UNC-Chapel Hill's budget. Our very existence is being questioned on this campus and nationwide through this anti-DEI agenda. 

BSM acknowledges the strength and power of making space for diverse voices in academia and expresses extreme concern for this and other political interventions occurring at the state level that will impede the slowly increasing success of students, faculty and staff of color. The current academic system, especially in North Carolina, was not crafted with people of color in mind and often was built to keep those that look like us from thriving.

In removing these policies, the Board of Governors could set a dangerous precedent and hinder the progress we have slowly begun to make towards greater equity in education. Much of the restructuring being proposed with these changes would place majority jurisdiction for these matters in the hands of each university's sitting chancellor. However, our Interim Chancellor, Lee Roberts’ admitted unfamiliarity with the political complexities surrounding DEI bans in other states, partisan relationships and limited experience in higher education show he lacks the tools to serve this community and protect this University. 

These recent actions from the BOG convey that the diverse voices of students across our campuses are not worth protecting, at least not at the expense of political intrigue and speculation. Furthermore, it sends a message that underrepresented students — the next generation of groundbreaking scientists, policy makers and creatives who continue to break their backs and struggle for access — do not have a representative at the table to advocate for them.

Diversity, equity and inclusion enriches our community by embracing the unique strengths and perspectives of all individuals. It fosters unity, understanding and mutual respect, creating a stronger and more resilient university environment for everyone.

DEI is not a tool that divides us but the thread which brings us together. For almost 60 years, the Black Student Movement has advocated — and will continue to advocate — for the Black and brown voices in academia and in our local community through our activism and our outreach, but BSM expresses extreme concern for the state of our University.

- 56th and 57th Black Student Movement Executive Team 

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