Monday, June 24, 2024

DEI program scrapped by UNC Board of Governors 

UNCW (Port City Daily/Alexandria Sands Williams)

WILMINGTON — The UNC Board of Governors has officially axed the university system’s DEI programs.

READ MORE: UNCW quiet on DEI repeal as students call for answers, CFCC group to host its own protest

During the May 23 board of governors meeting, a decisive 22-2 vote was cast to eliminate the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs across all 17 colleges and universities it oversees. Only two governors, Joel Ford and Sonja Phillips Nichols, were against the action.

The vote came after the board of governors’ committee made a swift recommendation at the April 17 meeting to revoke the programs. Since, student protests have been held at North Carolina State University, UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Wilmington, and Appalachian State University. At today’s meeting, around 35 protesters rallied outside the UNC System offices in Raleigh, in disagreement with the decision.

“This measure does amend the university code, as it is related to DEI, but it does not lessen our universities’ commitment to diversity and inclusion, to equality and equity, to being a place where all feel welcome, where all feel that they belong,” Governor Gene Davis said during the meeting. 

The role and effectiveness of DEI programs has become a disputable issue in recent years, as Republican-led legislatures across the nation have worked to get rid of the programs in universities. Red states like Texas and Florida implemented bans to DEI programs at public colleges and universities earlier this year. 

Numerous Republicans have argued that DEI programs have adverse effects, highlighting divisions by unfairly prioritizing groups of people. Democrats’ view is that such initiatives break down barriers, offering marginalized and minority communities equal opportunities and acknowledgment. 

UNC Board of Governors member — also former UNCW trustee and New Hanover County Commissioner — Woody White, stated in his op-ed in the Carolina Journal, that DEI programs have “morphed into an unwieldy and un-American construct that teaches that, so long as it has an altruistic purpose, discrimination is acceptable.”

The system’s DEI policy was adopted in 2019. It required institutions to implement DEI officers and track measures of diversity through operations, programs, and activities that contribute “to advance diversity and to foster an inclusive environment that engages, respects, and values all members of the University community,” according to the policy. 

During Thursday’s meeting, Secretary Pearl Burris-Floyd emphasized the decision should not leave campus leaders feeling abandoned or disregarded. 

“We are allowing our educators to educate, to lead with confidence, to be able to say, ‘Even if it’s not called diversity, equity, and inclusion,’ we have a way to help people and make that path forward clearer for all people.”

The elimination of the DEI programs will displace at least 17 mandated DEI officer positions, along with others employed in DEI departments. UNCW alone has 15 positions in its Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion. 

Following the board of governors meeting, UNCW Chancellor Aswani Volety issued a statement indicating he has met with the leadership team in UNCW’s Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion to address their concerns.

“We will work diligently over the next weeks to engage with representatives of the campus community to determine a path forward,” he said. 

The board of governors has requested that institutions submit plans for next steps by September 1 of this year. Universities are required to submit a report demonstrating their reduction in employees and spending, changes to job titles and descriptions, and the monetary savings achieved from actions related to the policy repeal.

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