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UNC Board of Governors removes DEI requirements from UNC System schools

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UNC system president Peter Hans speaks at the May 23, 2024 Board of Governers meeting in Raleigh, NC.

On Thursday morning, the UNC Board of Governors  voted to repeal  Section 300.8.5 of the UNC Policy Manual, which required diversity and inclusion services and officers for all 17 UNC System institutions.

The section of the policy manual, adopted in 2019, required a designated UNC System Office diversity and inclusion liaison and a D&I officer to be appointed at each UNC System institution as well as being a part of a UNC System D&I council.

At UNC-Chapel Hill, D&I initiatives include programs like Carolina Covenant — a need-based financial aid package and support network — and identity-based groups for students in STEM and business fields.

According to Beth Lutz, the media relations manager at UNC, financial aid programs like Carolina Covenant will not be affected because the funding comes from federal, state and University funds, not DEI funding. 

The motion to repeal passed by a majority vote with only two members, Joel Ford and Sonja Phillips Nichols, voting against removing the policy. There were 22 of the 24 BOG members present. 

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Board Member Sonja Phillips Nichols raises her hand in opposition to a policy defunding DEI at the May 23, 2024 Board of Governers meeting in Raleigh, NC.

Prior to the meeting, a group of approximately 30 students and community members gathered across the street from the building in which the UNC System offices are held. They spoke to the press about the importance of DEI services at their respective institutions and the harm of its removal.

Five seats within the meeting room were open to the public, which were filled by students that had been speaking outside beforehand. Two students were arrested after attempting to enter the meeting and were charged with second degree trespass and resisting a public officer, respectively.

After the vote, the students present at the meeting stood up and left, one with her fist in the air.

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Students exit the Board of Governers meeting on May 23, 2024 in Raleigh.

In a frequently asked questions sheet about the decision distributed to media during the meeting, the UNC System wrote that the new policy on diversity and inclusion was being implemented because the office was not there to require everyone to think the same way about race, gender or "any other challenging topic."

The sheet said that the policy is focused on following laws surrounding nondiscrimination and institutional neutrality, saying that campuses will be allowed to continue to use cultural programs and services to assist students with various backgrounds as long as they comply with legal requirements.

The sheet also said that any savings as a result of the new diversity, equity and inclusion policies would be directed to student success initiatives, saying that they have not yet determined how many positions could be modified or discontinued for institutions to follow the policy.

"The goal of this policy is not necessarily to cut jobs, but to move our universities away from administrative activism on social and political debates," the fact sheet said.

The new policy states that student-led organizations may use university facilities and funding even if the organizations are not institutionally neutral.

Four UNC-Chapel Hill employee, faculty and student leaders wrote a joint statement — representing themselves and not their organizations— to the BOG and UNC System President Peter Hans in support of DEI initiatives, funding and personnel before Thursday's meeting. Graduate and Professional Student Government President Katie Heath, Faculty Chair Beth Moracco, Employee Forum Chair Katie Musgrove and Student Body President Jaleah Taylor wrote that they were dismayed by the BOG University Governance committee’s previous vote to repeal the policy, particularly without consulting System staff and students.

"We are deeply concerned that the elimination of DEI initiatives, positions, and funding will have a debilitating impact on UNC System schools," the statement read. "At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, we host numerous invaluable programs, many of which have gained national acclaim and/or allowed the university to access millions of dollars of research funding."

The policy repeal follows a UNC Board of Trustees meeting on May 13, where members discussed and edited the UNC-Chapel Hill 2024-25 all-funds budget, passing an amendment to direct the $2.3 million previously in place for DEI funding to be reallocated to public safety resources.

This is a developing story, check back for updates. 

Clarification: After the initial publication of this article, The Daily Tar Heel clarified that financial aid programs will not be affected by changes to DEI programming and funding.  

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