UNC System issues new DEI guidance in light of Board of Governors repealing 2019 policy

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Tuesday, July 2, 2024
UNC System issues new DEI guidance
New guidance has been sent to North Carolina universities to help them navigate changes to diversity, equity and inclusion policies.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- New guidance has been sent to North Carolina universities to help them navigate changes to diversity, equity and inclusion policies.

The four-page document that was sent to legal staff in June details how all 16 University of North Carolina System schools will abide by "institutional neutrality," a concept that aims to keep universities from weighing in on political matters or social issues.

This all became necessary when the UNC Board of Governors voted to repeal its DEI policy in May. That policy had been in place since 2019.

The guidance specifically discusses 13 topics, although it prefaces them by saying they do not "answer every hypothetical:"

  • Focus on student success
  • Avoiding content endorsement
  • The policy does not prohibit centers
  • Some centers will need to restructure their content
  • Curriculum
  • Content-specific employing division and employee positions
  • Public resolution and media statement in name of the university
  • Research

    Service

  • Contracting
  • Student and faculty groups & outside speakers
  • Form of certification & report
  • Additional guidance provided as necessary

"One of the most visible changes to expect on campuses is the elimination of content-specific missions, duties, and titles of employing divisions and employee positions. The Policy prevents university administrators from endorsing any one viewpoint when doing so violates the laws and UNC Policies it cites, including the Policy itself," the guidance states. "This prohibition reaches positions across the political, policy, and social spectrum, including, without limitation, diversity, equity, and inclusion offices and officers."

This guidance reiterates the possibility that many critics feared when the Board of Governors repealed the DEI policy: University DEI offices could be drastically changed or eliminated.

SEE ALSO | Cutting UNC's DEI funding could impact some programs at the 17 universities

The guidance also prevents university administrators and campus initiatives from taking a political stance, using "student-veterans," as an example on page two.

"For example, while a student veterans initiative on campus is permissible, the initiative would stray if its programming included endorsement by university employees of a view for or against American foreign policy," the guidance states.

Chancellors will have to submit a report to UNC System president Peter Hans about any changes they make at their universities by Sep. 1.

Hans sent the following memo to university chancellors in light of the new guidance:

Attached, you'll find the UNC System's guidance for implementation of the recently enacted Equality Policy that was shared with your legal counsels. Over the last few months, we received constructive feedback from across the University System and from the public. We listened to the concerns and I hope you'll find that the attached guidance carefully addresses many of the key questions raised in those discussions.

There are a few points I want to emphasize as you prepare to share this guidance on your campuses.

First, the university remains committed to welcoming and serving students of all backgrounds. North Carolina is a vibrant and diverse place, and our public universities should welcome the full breadth of talent in this state. Targeted initiatives to support specific student populations are well within the scope of the revised policy, provided they abide by nondiscrimination statutes and do not require students, staff, or faculty to adopt a political viewpoint as a condition of participation.

Second, this policy is a powerful affirmation of academic freedom. The goal of principled neutrality is to prevent administrative staff from establishing official stances on contentious issues, precisely so that faculty remain free to teach and research. Students and student groups are likewise exempted from expectations of neutrality.

Simply put, the goal is more discussion, not less. As President Bill Friday elegantly wrote in 1970, "While individual members of the University community deserve our support as they speak and act in a responsible and constructive manner, it must be clearly understood that the University itself, as an institution, must remain non-political." This policy affirms that long-held understanding of the university's role in public life.

Finally, I want to acknowledge that fair-minded implementation of policies around nondiscrimination, equality of opportunity, and principled neutrality will inevitably raise challenging questions for an institution as vast and diverse as the University of North Carolina. I am committed to working with you in good faith as we pursue our shared mission of student success for all.