Goodbye DEI! University scraps DEI program, shifts funding to public safety in wake of pro-Hamas demonstrations

RALEIGH, NC - The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Board of Trustees is shelving DEI programs at the flagship university in next year’s budget, and instead transferring funding to the university’s public safety budget, WXII reports. The move comes as the state’s public university system is considering a vote on shelving its diversity program statewide. 

The change would move $2.3 million of diversity funding and direct it toward public safety and policing, and would only impact UNC-Chapel Hill’s diversity funding. The decision was made at a special meeting to discuss the university’s budget. 

The vote came as UNC, along with many college campuses nationwide, is dealing with pro-Hamas, anti-Israel, and anti-American demonstrations that have resulted in a number of arrests. Committee vice-chair Marty Kotis said campus law enforcement has been forced to react to the protests, however, requires additional funding to keep the university “safe from a larger threat.” 

‘It’s important to consider the needs of all 30,000 students, not just the 100 or so that may want to disrupt the university’s operations,” Kotis said. “It takes away resources for others.” 

The change was initially considered in the budget committee, however, the full board passed the plan at the end of the special meeting. Budget chair David Boliek, a candidate for state auditor in this week’s runoff election, said it gives UNC an “opportunity to lead on this” and get ahead of the vote scheduled by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors’ on its diversity policy. 

In an April vote, the statewide board’s Committee on University Governance voted to scrap the DEI policy in effect for 17 schools statewide. That change would replace a 2019 diversity, equity, and inclusion directive that defines the role of several DEI positions–and it appears those jobs would henceforth be eliminated if the policy is removed. 

A vote of the full 24-member board is scheduled for this week on the policy change. If approved, it will go into effect immediately. 

According to the Associated Press, UNC will join several other notable universities that have scrapped DEI funding, including the University of Florida in Gainesville, which announced in March that it was reallocating those funds toward faculty recruitment.

Unlike UF, which rolled back its funding after a bill was passed by the Florida legislature, UNC will instead “set the tone” on funding cuts before the North Carolina legislature has a chance to act, Boliek said. 

“We’re going ahead and, you know, sort of taking a leadership role in this. That’s the way I view it,” Boliek said. 

Last year, the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in college admissions and UNC was one of the institutions sued for its admission policies. Since that ruling, the board has been considering how to handle the university’s diversity programs, Boliek said. The schools’ public safety program has also been a concern since an August shooting that saw one faculty member killed. 

“It makes sense where we can take money that I believe is not being productively used and put it to something that is more productive and that is providing public safety,” he said. 

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore, a Republican, said before the start of the state’s short legislative session that there was interest in pursuing anti-DEI legislation just as Florida had done, however, wanted to allow university boards to review their diversity policies first. 

Some 20 states have seen Republicans propose bills to limit diversity and inclusion programs in public institutions such as universities.

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