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UNC board to vote on eliminating diversity, equity and inclusion measures at NC public colleges

Laura Hackett

The UNC Board of Governors, the body that regulates the state’s 16 public universities as well as the North Carolina School of Science and Math, is set to vote on requiring “institutional neutrality” and eliminating funding for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

The proposed policy revision would replace DEI standards implemented in fall 2019. The vote comes after a subcommittee of the board passed the proposed change at an April meeting with no discussion.

The revisions were presented by UNC System Senior Vice President and General Counsel Andrew Tripp, a former staffer for state Senator Tom Apodaca and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.

The change would require chancellors and directors of student affairs at each institution to certify compliance with the institutional neutrality and nondiscrimination policies by Sept. 1.

If the measure passes, leaders at all institutions must submit “a report on reductions in force and spending, along with changes to job titles and position descriptions, undertaken as a result of implementing this policy and how those savings achieved from these actions can be redirected to initiatives related to student success and wellbeing.”

The proposal is not unlike those passed by governing boards in other states. According to The Chronicle for Higher Education, 85 anti-DEI bills have been proposed in 28 states and the U.S. Congress. Since 2023, 14 of the proposed measures have become law.

Many follow model legislation drafted by The Manhattan Institute, a conservative New York-based think tank, and the Goldwater Institute, an Arizona-based free market think tank named after the late U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater.

Effects in WNC

The proposed change would affect local institutions, including Western Carolina University and UNC-Asheville.

There are nine positions at WCU focused entirely on diversity and inclusion goals that could be in jeopardy under the proposed Board of Governors policy, according to a February report from administrators to the Cullowhee school’s Board of Trustees.

Students at UNC-Asheville held a rally on the campus quad in front of Ramsey Library in late April to voice their stance against the proposal.

Third-year student Hannah Ettu said diversity, equity and inclusion policies are important for students on campus.

“DEI literally lives in me,” Ettu said. “DEI is for me and for people who look like me.”

At UNC-Asheville, detailed information about diversity, inclusion and equity measures is no longer publicly available on the school’s website.

When BPR raised the issue to the institution in late April, Chief University Communication and Marketing Officer Michael P. Strysick said the broken link was a technical issue.

“We're involved in a lengthy redesign of our website and sometimes page redirects included in that process are incorrect. We have fixed this link to lead visitors here,” he wrote.

The new version of the page omits detailed information previously available including programs like Racial Healing Circles, Employee Resource Groups, Bias Incident Reporting Teams and an FAQ about a Campus Climate survey.

The Board of Governors’ 24 voting members, elected by the North Carolina Senate and House of Representatives, are expected to vote Thursday morning. The Board is accepting public comment on its website through 5 p.m. on May 23.

Jose Sandoval is the afternoon host and reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio.
Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.