DEI in Decline: UNC Board Terminates Diversity Policy

By: Georgia | Published: May 24, 2024

The University of North Carolina System Board of Governors recently made a decisive move, voting to overturn the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) mandates previously established in 2019 for the state’s public universities. 

This major policy change is scheduled to take effect at the start of the 2024-2025 academic year.

Protests Following Decision

Following this decision, a wave of protests swept the front of the UNC System office in Raleigh. 

he front view of Dudley DeWitt Carroll Hall on the University of North Carolina campus, adorned with colorful banners of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media

Source: UNC/X

According to a report from The News & Observer, around 50 students and other demonstrators convened at the scene, leading to the arrest of at least two individuals in the wake of the board’s controversial vote.


Board Vote Details

The UNC Board of Governors, which consists of 24 members, passed the agenda that included the repeal of the DEI policy. 

A scenic view of the Old Well at the University of North Carolina, surrounded by blooming trees in a serene spring setting

Source: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill/Facebook

Joel Ford and Sonja Nichols were the two board members who voted against this new measure, highlighting a split within the board.

The Repealed DEI Policy

Previously, the DEI policy established various positions within the university system, such as diversity officers, whose duties included managing diversity programming and training for staff and students. 

A distant view of the UNC Bell Tower seen through lush green trees, under a clear blue sky

Source: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill/Facebook

The repeal suggests that these positions could be discontinued or significantly altered.

New Policy Focus

The new policy states that each person in the UNC multi-campus system “be treated as an individual deserving of dignity and inclusion.” 

Students walking and sitting on the steps of the Louis Round Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina

Source: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill/Facebook

The document also specifies that “diversity means the ways in which individuals vary, including, but not limited to, backgrounds, beliefs, viewpoints, abilities, cultures, and traditions that distinguish one individual from another.”

Compliance with Federal and State Law

The policy revision maintains that UNC’s employment practices and educational programs “shall continue to comply with federal and state law prohibiting discrimination and harassment of members of protected classes, including, without limitation, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” as noted in the board’s agenda.

A close-up of the State of North Carolina Justice Building sign, featuring a black silhouette of North Carolina with the state flag emblem

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This commitment is a cornerstone of the revised policies, ensuring that legal standards are met across all campuses within the UNC system.


Support for Diverse Student Bodies

The new guidelines ensure that campuses will continue to support students from diverse backgrounds. 

A group of five joyful graduates in blue gowns and caps, adorned with cultural stoles and cords

Source: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill/Facebook

“Campuses shall ensure that qualified students of all backgrounds are welcomed, included, and supported in their pursuit of a degree or certificate and that employee wellbeing remains a priority,” the policy states.


Reallocation of Funds at UNC Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has decided to reallocate funds previously dedicated to DEI programs

Two university police officers, one African American and one Caucasian, patrolling a campus walkway lined with trees and historic buildings

Source: UNCPolice/X

This reallocation involves a sum of $2.3 million, which will now be used to enhance police and public safety measures on campus.


Board’s Extensive Oversight

The UNC Board of Governors holds a significant position in the educational framework of North Carolina.

he state flag of North Carolina flying high against a clear blue sky, prominently displaying the dates of the state's history and symbols

Source: Elijah Mears/Unsplash

The board oversees all 17 public universities within the state. 


Initial Steps by Committee

A five-person board committee initially voted to reverse the DEI policy. 

A female graduate in a blue gown and cap seen from behind, overlooking a crowded graduation ceremony at a university stadium filled with fellow graduates in blue

Source: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill/Facebook

This was a necessary step before the full 24-person board could vote on the matter, leading up to the official policy repeal.


UNC System President’s Remarks

In a meeting on Thursday, UNC System President Peter Hans emphasized the importance of engaging with “competing ideas.” 

A formal portrait of a university chancellor, a Caucasian male, dressed in a dark suit with a striped tie, standing confidently in his office surrounded by awards and books

Source: The University of North Carolina System

He stated, “No one can speak for the whole university community on contentious issues because the university is not of one mind about anything.” 


Community Engagement and Feedback

Leading up to the vote, President Hans engaged with the UNC Faculty Assembly, students, and staff to gauge their concerns about the impending changes. 

The North Carolina state flag viewed from a university building window, looking out over a lush green courtyard and a historic building

Source: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill/Facebook

He expressed his continued commitment to fostering diversity within the system’s schools.