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Diversity policy changed for 17-campus UNC System

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(The Center Square) – Overwhelming approval has been given to change a diversity policy in the UNC System to “ensure equality of all persons and viewpoints.”

Sonja Phillips Nichols and Joel Ford were the only no votes from the 24-member Board of Governors that oversees the 17-campus network. Dismantled is the 2019 policy language to “foster an inclusive environment.”

UNC System President Peter Hans, former head of the state’s network of 58 community colleges, said higher education doesn’t settle debates “in our democracy” but does host them, and serve as a place to inform and make such conversations richer and more constructive.

“That’s a vital responsibility,” he said, “and we can’t fulfill it if our institutions are seen as partisan actors in one direction or another.”

Compliance is required by Sept. 1. There was no immediate knowledge of impact on jobs at the 16 university campuses and one high school campus that are tied to departments and initiatives commonly known as diversity, equity and inclusion.

The board made clear its goal was to “move our universities away from administrative activism on social and political debates.” That didn’t necessarily mean cutting jobs, but all 17 are required to report to the board “reductions in force and spending, along with changes to job titles and position descriptions, undertaken as a result of implementing” the new policy.

Information on how financial savings is redirected “to initiatives related to student success and wellbeing” are also sought by the board.

The board’s move comes 10 days after the Board of Trustees at UNC Chapel Hill, the flagship institution and nation’s oldest public university, made a budget move for the coming year that transferred $2.3 million to public safety and policing from diversity programs. Carolina’s website previously had a page on its website showing its 12-member department for diversity, equity and inclusion, led by Vice Provost Dr. Leah Cox.

Public records available indicate Cox’s annual salary was more than $315,000. The department website page has since been taken down.

In addition to the language change, the Board of Governors said all 17 schools must comply with directions of the North Carolina General Assembly on what is allowable in teaching about race, racism and sex in government institutions.

The change is not unique. Offices devoted to diversity, equity and inclusion were gutted at the University of Florida and University of Texas at Austin. Lawmakers in the two states have created statutes for public colleges and universities related to diversity efforts.

The UNC System includes, in addition to Carolina, Appalachian State, East Carolina, Elizabeth City State, Fayetteville State, N.C. A&T, N.C. Central, N.C. State, UNC Asheville, UNC Charlotte, UNC Greensboro, UNC Pembroke, UNC School of the Arts, UNC Wilmington, Western Carolina, Winston-Salem State, and its one high school level institution, the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics.

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