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Diversity programs at UNC losing $2.3M in funding to public safety

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Funding for diversity programs totaling $2.3 million is been transferred from diversity programs to public safety and policing at the nation’s oldest public university and flagship campus in the University of North Carolina System.

The Board of Trustees approved the change Monday at a special meeting on the upcoming budget. The alteration could result in the loss of its diversity office, led by 12 regular staff including a vice provost making more than $315,000 annually.

Public safety drew attention leading up to Saturday’s graduation with a pro-Palestinian encampment on the famed Polk Place quad. Dave Boliek, budget chairman and candidate for state auditor in Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff, said Carolina could lead and be ahead of potential changes from a vote by the UNC Board of Governors that has authority over all 17 campuses.

In April, a committee within the Board of Governors recommended changes to policy on diversity, equity and inclusion. It appears to eliminate positions. The 24-member board votes next week, and an alteration would take effect immediately.

At Carolina, there is a 12-member office. Their titles and annual salary per the UNC System database:

• Dr. Leah Cox: vice provost of Equity and Inclusion, and the chief diversity officer; $317,538.

• Trish Harris: senior director of Education, Operations and Initiatives; $116,626.

• Toska Cooper: coordinator of Projects and Planning; $96,720.

• Cloe Liparini: director of Education, Community Engagement and Belonging; salary unconfirmed.

• Ari Weinbaum: assistant director, Education, Community Engagement, Strategic Initiatives; $71,796.

• Yesenia Pedro Vicente: assistant director of Student Access, Success and Engagement; $78,000.

• Tray Good: assistant director of Student Access, Success and Engagement; $60,840.

• Tran (Annie) Phun: program coordinator, Student Access, Success, and Engagement; $56,545.

• Theo Horne: marketing, communications specialist; $60,000.

• Tammy Siler Belcher: business services coordinator; $57,200.

• Stacy Reynolds: executive assistant; $56,812.

• Charlie Taylor: accounting technician; $55,640.

Graduate assistants and student ambassadors are also part of the staff, according to the university’s website.

Changing policies with regard to diversity, equity and inclusion offices and initiatives is happening throughout the country.

In Florida, public colleges cannot use state and federal funds for DEI. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott signed law requiring all state-funded colleges and universities to close such offices. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed a law prohibiting diversity training, hiring and inclusion programs at universities and in state government.

More than 30 states have introduced such bills to ban or limit initiatives in diversity, equity and inclusion.

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