UNC Board Repeals Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policy Amid National Trend

The University of North Carolina’s board of governors repealed the state school system’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policy on Thursday, aligning with a growing trend among institutions influenced by right-wing lawmakers, donors, and billionaires pushing back on DEI initiatives.

The statewide University of North Carolina system, with its flagship campus in Chapel Hill, will no longer require annual DEI reports after the board voted to repeal the program. The new system, “Equality Within the University of North Carolina,” aims to “ensure equality of all persons and viewpoints” while complying with state legislation limiting the teaching of race, racism, and sex in schools.

The repeal follows a recent board decision to divert $2.3 million away from DEI programs and comes amidst similar actions by other states.

In Florida, the University of Florida reduced its DEI program in March, eliminating over a dozen positions to comply with state law. Gov. Ron DeSantis called DEI “toxic” and expressed hope that other states would follow Florida’s lead.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill last year banning DEI programs at state colleges, leading to over 300 layoffs across the university system, as reported by NBC News.

In Utah, Gov. Spencer Cox signed a law in January prohibiting DEI training and hiring initiatives at state universities, defending the law as not being racist.

The University of Wyoming eliminated its DEI office earlier this week due to a new state law cutting $1.7 million from its budget for DEI programs. University President Ed Seidel expressed concerns about the elimination, stating he had “heard from our community that many of the services that might have incorrectly been categorized under DEI are important for the success of our students, faculty, and staff.”

State schools in Iowa, including Iowa State University and the University of Iowa, have reduced DEI programs following new anti-DEI legislation. In Kansas, state lawmakers voted this month to ban DEI statements in admissions and hiring at public universities, with Gov. Laura Kelly signing it into law.

In Idaho, a state law enacted in March bans public universities from requiring diversity statements from students and employees. Oklahoma University rebranded its DEI office to the “Division of Access and Opportunity” after Gov. Kevin Stitt’s executive order for a DEI review in higher education.

Diversity initiatives in higher education expanded significantly after the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests. These programs, advocated by groups like the NAACP, are seen as essential for combating racism and discrimination. However, many Americans argue that DEI programs unfairly prioritize minority groups over others. The Supreme Court’s ruling last June that colleges can no longer consider race in admissions has further impacted these efforts.

Opponents of DEI, including billionaire Bill Ackman, argue that these programs unfairly benefit some students. Ackman linked DEI to the controversial hiring of Harvard University President Claudine Gay. Elon Musk has also criticized DEI, claiming it replaced one form of discrimination with another.

Large corporations such as Google and Meta have also reduced their DEI initiatives. Despite this, a Meta spokesperson stated that the company’s commitment to DEI remains central. Other companies like DoorDash, Lyft, Home Depot, and X have also scaled back their DEI teams in recent years.