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Update on Board of Governors DEI policy change, budget

As UNC-Chapel Hill awaits implementation guidance, this post addresses questions about the policy.

The Old Well, with South Building behind it, against the sunset
(Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

UNC-Chapel Hill is awaiting implementation guidance from the UNC System related to the Board of Governors’ May 23 vote to change its diversity, equity and inclusion policy.

The aims to ensure efforts to support students on UNC System campuses do not infringe on academic freedom, equal opportunity or institutional neutrality.

Research initiatives, faculty teaching and student-led organizations are all protected under the policy, which includes some of the strongest support for academic freedom ever passed by the Board of Governors.

The policy does not call for the wholesale elimination of programs or personnel devoted to supporting students of different backgrounds. In fact, initiatives to welcome and support underserved students are well within the scope of the University’s mission, provided they follow nondiscrimination statutes and do not require those affiliated with them to adopt a political viewpoint.

The UNC System recognizes that North Carolina is one of the fastest growing states in the country and is diversifying rapidly. Carolina has a profound duty to reflect the state as it changes and grows, encouraging people from different perspectives and life experiences to come here and helping them succeed.

The University also has a long-standing commitment to supporting equality of opportunity in education and employment. As part of that mission, Carolina continues to welcome people from all walks of life with a variety of experiences and perspectives who come here to learn, work and live.

UNC System President Peter Hans’ remarks at the May 23 meeting are .

Budget approval

In separate action, the Board of Governors accepted the University’s fiscal year 2024-25 budget without amendments. The budget invests in cybersecurity, campus-wide accessibility projects, graduate student support and artificial intelligence, among other key initiatives.

FAQ about DEI policy change

Below are some frequently asked questions answered by the UNC System:

What are the next steps?

As with most new policies, we expect it’s going to take some time to implement this change. System Office guidance will be issued to our campuses in the coming weeks, with the intent of implementing any campus-level changes at the beginning of the 2024-25 academic year.

Why is this policy being implemented?

Welcoming students from all backgrounds makes our universities better and stronger. We’re a diverse state, and our public universities are here to serve everyone. But we’re not here to require everyone to think the same way about race, gender, or any other challenging topic.

The university, through its administrative programs and mandates, cannot prescribe a narrow ideology, a single conception of progress and justice in society. The proposed policy requires that university administrators refrain from taking political or social positions and adhere to laws on nondiscrimination and institutional neutrality.

How does this policy impact material taught in the classroom? Will UNC System faculty and students still be able to research topics dealing with DEI?

The policy does not touch or impact what is taught in our classrooms or researched in our labs. As a public university, we support and protect academic freedom and freedom of expression. Faculty and students are free to teach, learn, and research as they see fit.

How does this policy impact cultural centers and programs on UNC System campuses?

The UNC System embraces the diverse cultures of its students, faculty, staff and alumni. Facilities such as student cultural centers will continue to serve students. Campuses will continue to implement programming and services to assist students of different backgrounds to improve academic performance, as long as programs comply with legal requirements for institutional neutrality and nondiscrimination.

Does implementation of this policy mean that student organizations that are focused or centered on diversity or gender will need to be disbanded?

No. The policy specifically carves out an exception to student-led organizations, as long as those organizations are following written policies or regulations of the constituent institution for use of university facilities and resources.

Will DEI offices and positions be eliminated?

This policy is about what kind of work we’re supporting in student success. Every campus has a different structure when it comes to those support services, and they’ll need to make any necessary adjustments to comply with this new policy. Any savings would be directed to student success initiatives.

The goal of this policy is not necessarily to cut jobs, but to move our universities away from administrative activism on social and political debates. It is going to take some time to determine how many positions could be modified or discontinued to ensure that institutions are aligning with the revised policy.