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UNC Board of Trustees discuss DEI, athletics for 2024-25 budget

BOT-university-affairs-committee-meeting-coverage
Mimi Chapman, Chair of the Faculty at UNC, speaks in front of the UNC Board of Trustees as pictured on Wednesday, 22, 2023. Dr. Chapman emphasized the concerns of faculty regarding the development of the School of Civic Life and Leadership program.

At last Monday’s special meeting of the UNC Board of Trustees, members reviewed and approved the University’s all-funds budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year. Members specifically reviewed budget changes involving diversity, equity and inclusion services and athletics.

presentation was done at the beginning of the BOT meeting by Nathan Knuffman, vice chancellor for finance and operations and chief financial officer for the University.  One of the slides laid out questions the UNC System Office asked Trustees to address affordability, strategic investing, efficiency efforts, funding pressures and changes in fund balance strategy when reviewing the new budget.

The meeting was held in preparation for the May 22 and 23 UNC Board of Governors meeting where the budget is to be reviewed again, and the full Board will vote on policy changes involving DEI services.

What’s new?

  • Trustees created and passed a motion to divert $2.3 million budgeted for DEI services to be used for public safety.
    • David Boliek, the budget committee chair, suggested the motion to remove funding from DEI services.
      • “I have stated before and I’ll state it again, I think that DEI is divisive,” Boliek said. “I don’t think that it’s productive, I don't think that it gives a return on investment to taxpayers and to the institution itself.”
      • Boliek is currently running for state auditor in North Carolina and secured a spot in the general election after winning his Republican primary race on Wednesday. According to the bylaws of the BOT, if members become an officer or employee of the State while serving on the board, they must resign. Boliek’s campaign website said that he led the fight to remove DEI policies at UNC, saying that Boliek helped “bring ideological balance to the notoriously liberal campus.”
    • Marty Kotis, the budget committee vice chair, said that the board has a resolution for nondiscrimination, but that he thought there were many University programs that do not comply with the policy.
      • “While [the BOT] may be an advisory board, we do have the power of the purse,” Kotis said. “If we don’t want to approve programs that aren’t in compliance with our resolution, then we don’t have to approve those programs.”
    • He also said that he thinks DEI in many people’s minds is “divisiveness, exclusion and indoctrination,” saying that it was appropriate to cut funding for DEI in order to ensure compliance with nondiscrimination policies and the Students for Fair Admissions lawsuit, which ended the use of race-conscious affirmative action last year after being heard in the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Trustees spoke about recent protests on campus, saying that more funding for public safety, specifically University Police, was necessary and recommending new guidelines for student organizations on campus.
    • Kotis said that law enforcement did not currently have all the tools they needed to respond to situations and keep UNC campus safe, saying that pro-Palestine protesters damaged property on May 11 before UNC’s Commencement ceremony.
      • “When you destroy property or you take down the U.S. flag and you have to put up gates around it that cost money, or deploy officers to do that, North Carolinians are watching all of this and they are not happy,” Kotis said later in the meeting.
    • Kotis also said that an approach to public safety would include the University relocating activist centers on campus and requiring them to fund themselves. He said that GoFundMe was a great source of funding. 
      • Kotis referenced a fundraiser started on GoFundMe by a third party to throw a “rager” for UNC fraternity brothers who held up the U.S. flag from touching the ground after it was removed by pro-Palestine demonstrators and replaced with a Palestinian flag on April 30. Organizers of the fundraiser described the students who participated as American heroes and said that the fundraiser received over 12,000 donations.
    • Boliek briefly spoke about recent policing at UNC.
      • “It is a shame that the Town of Chapel Hill refuses to aid our local University Police when called upon,” Boliek said as John Preyer, chair of the BOT, added that the situation had occurred on multiple occasions. Boliek also said that the Governor’s office had refused to aid University Police.
  • Trustees discussed how to accommodate the athletics budget into the all-funds budget that was being sent to the BOG. Toward the end of their meeting, they passed a motion to approve the all-funds budget with an amendment, to include the changes the BOT has for DEI funding being reallocated to public safety, as well as carving out the athletic budget but leaving $125 million in the overall budget as a placeholder when sending the budget to the BOG.
    • Some members voiced their frustrations surrounding the athletic budget, saying that they needed more information about athletics before it is approved.
      • “I don’t think people understand the issue,” Preyer said. "I don’t think they understand the level of bad data that has been provided, and I think it is incumbent on us to get it right, not just to get it done in a hurry because there’s a deadline — every single time that we've had a deadline and there's a compelling reason why the deadline needed to be moved, the deadline has been moved so that we can get the right end product.”
    • Members also passed a motion to include an internal audit done by Dean Weber, chief audit officer at the University, of the athletics department in the all-funds budget. Jennifer Halsey Evans, a member of the BOT, said that the audit was necessary.
      • “There are real issues here,” Halsey said. “A real concern that one of our most valuable assets, and something that really generates revenue, is not being managed properly. So that is the need for the question and answer and that is the need for the audit."
      • Ralph Meekins, another member of the BOT, was the sole member who voted against the motion for an audit of the athletics department. In the meeting, he said that he didn’t appreciate the comments from members of the board that the athletic director has not been open to meet with board members.

What's next?

The BOG will discuss the UNC System all-funds budgets for the 2024-25 fiscal year at their meetings taking place May 22 and 23.

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@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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