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UNC System President, BOG Chair release statement after committee vote to repeal DEI policy

The full UNC Board of Governors meets April 18 in Winston-Salem, one day after a board committee voted to repeal the UNC System's DEI policy.
Brianna Atkinson
The full UNC Board of Governors meets April 18, one day after a board committee voted to repeal the UNC System's DEI policy. The policy previously mandated DEI offices and Chief Diversity Officers at all public universities in North Carolina.

The full UNC Board of Governors met today in Winston-Salem, one day after a committee voted to eliminate diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at all 17 campuses.

And while the full Board will take up the DEI vote at its next meeting in May, the Board did cast a final vote on a policy to increase civic literacy at all 16 of its public university campuses.

The Foundations of American Democracy requirement mandates that college students take classes that include historical texts from the Declaration of Independence to Martin Luther King’s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" in order to graduate from any public university in North Carolina.

The policy, which a UNC Board of Governors committee has been discussing since January, passed unanimously through the board’s consent agenda.

That discussion stands in stark contrast to how the DEI policy has moved through the Board. It was added to a committee agenda very late the day before the committee met, and then passed in less than four minutes, with no discussion at all.

UNC students created a flier after the committee vote to eliminate policy that mandates DEI offices and positions.
Brianna Atkinson
UNC students created a flier after the committee vote to eliminate policy that mandates DEI offices and positions.

The “Equality Within the University of North Carolina” policy replaces a 2019 mandate that required all university campuses to have diversity, equity and inclusion reporting initiatives, and in some cases, sizable staffs.

The new policy will likely lead to the elimination of all the UNC System’s DEI offices, and affect numerous positions and initiatives. Several student groups have spoken out against the policy, and over 700 people have signed a petition to stop it.

At the full board meeting today, BOG members and UNC System President Peter Hans made no public comments about the policy.

Since he became system president in 2020, Hans has made it a point to answer questions from the media after UNC Board of Governors meetings. But after this meeting concluded, he declined to answer questions on the record from WUNC or other media outlets, and instead issued a written statement.

“The University of North Carolina will continue serving students of all backgrounds and beliefs,” Hans’ statement reads. “There is broad and deep commitment to that goal, and support for the UNC System’s longstanding efforts to reflect the diversity of North Carolina.”

“We have well-established laws and policies that prohibit discrimination, protect equal opportunity and require a safe and supportive learning environment for all students,” Hans' statement continues. “We will uphold those responsibilities.”

Other board of governors members, including Chair Randy Ramsey, also did not make themselves available for comment. Ramsey also issued a written statement.

“Welcoming students from all backgrounds makes our universities better and stronger,” Ramsey’s statement reads. “North Carolina is a diverse state, and our public universities belong to everyone. That means we cannot require everyone to think the same way about race, gender or any other challenging topic.”

The full Board of Governors will meet again in late May in Raleigh. If the policy change is passed then, it will become final and effective immediately.

Brianna Atkinson is WUNC’s 2024 Fletcher Fellow and covers higher education in partnership with Open Campus.