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UNC Board Votes to Eliminate DEI Efforts at NC Public Universities


The UNC Board of Governors adopted a policy requiring “institutional neutrality” and eliminating funding for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in a nearly unanimous vote on May 23 at its regular meeting in Raleigh. The vote repeals two DEI policies adopted in September 2019, which required each of the state’s 17 public campuses to employ roles such as a chief diversity officer and set goals for advancing diversity and inclusion, among other requirements.

Board Decision and Reaction

The Board of Governors has 23 voting members, with all but two members voting in favor of the policy change. The two dissenting votes came from members Joel Ford and Sonja Phillips Nichols. In explaining their support for the policy, board members Gene Davis and Pearl Burris-Floyd mentioned concerns about certain DEI initiatives that made them uncomfortable and believed that such programs were making university communities less welcoming.

Students across the UNC system, including UNC Asheville, protested the decision ahead of the board meeting. UNCA’s Student Government President Liv Barefoot expressed disappointment at the board’s disregard for DEI efforts, stating concerns that the policy change could negatively impact enrollment and the campus community’s diversity and inclusivity.

Next Steps

Chancellors and student affairs directors at each institution within the UNC system must provide written certification of compliance with the new policy, demonstrating their commitment to institutional neutrality and nondiscrimination by September 1. They are also required to report any changes in staff and spending as a result of implementing the policy.

UNC Asheville Chancellor Kimberly van Noort and other university leaders are awaiting guidance on the specific implications of the policy change and are committed to keeping the campus community informed as more information becomes available.

Supportive Statements

Appalachian State University Interim Chancellor Heather Norris reaffirmed the school’s dedication to supporting all students following the policy change, emphasizing the university’s focus on student success and a high-quality college experience.

Board member Davis highlighted that the measure would prompt chancellors across the system to review existing programs, modifying those that are deemed unwelcoming while enhancing successful initiatives aligned with the new policy’s goals.

National Trend

This decision reflects a broader trend in higher education, with 85 anti-DEI bills introduced in 28 states and the U.S. Congress, resulting in 14 laws since 2023. Several universities within the UNC system have already redirected funds away from DEI programs, including UNC Chapel Hill reallocating $2.3 million toward police and public safety measures.

As the UNC system navigates these changes, campuses like UNC Asheville are expected to continue striving to create diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments for their students.

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Author: HERE Asheville