UNC System’s Committee Axes DEI Policy: Implications for the Future

The University of North Carolina System Board of Governors’ University Governance committee made a significant decision on Wednesday evening. They voted to remove an important policy about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), which means many DEI-related jobs and offices at the state’s public universities might be eliminated soon.

The policy, created in 2019, aimed to promote diversity and inclusion across the 17 schools within the UNC System. It included setting up jobs, goals, and measures for DEI. However, the committee’s decision could lead to the end of these efforts if the full board, consisting of 24 members, agrees during their next meeting on May 23.

Surprisingly, the committee took less than four minutes to vote on this decision without any discussion or questions, as reported by The Associated Press.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper expressed disappointment in the decision, stating that diversity should be celebrated as a strength of the state, not a point of political contention. He criticized Republican leaders for undermining diversity efforts, which he believes are essential for attracting top talent to the state’s universities.

This move follows a campaign against DEI initiatives by Republican politicians since early 2023, reflecting a broader backlash against DEI in higher education. In February, there were criticisms of the School of Medicine’s DEI efforts, with accusations of lowering admissions standards.

The proposed replacement policy, titled “Equality Within the University of North Carolina,” doesn’t include the DEI-related jobs outlined in the 2019 policy. Instead, it focuses on nondiscrimination and ensuring equality for all, without specifying responsibilities for promoting diversity and inclusion.

The new policy emphasizes institutional neutrality, where university administrators avoid taking sides on public issues to protect academic freedom. It also reaffirms commitments to freedom of speech and maintaining academic freedom, which were not addressed in the previous policy.

Timur Kuran, a professor, believes that removing divisive DEI structures and focusing on protecting all individuals on campus would be a positive step.

Governor Cooper expressed concerns about the increasing influence of the Republican legislature over the UNC system’s governance, fearing it may not reflect the diversity of North Carolina’s population or thoughts.

Overall, the decision to remove the DEI policy raises questions about the future direction of diversity efforts within the UNC System and its impact on students, faculty, and the broader community.

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