Students, graduates react to new UNC system DEI policy

Akilah Davis Image
Friday, May 24, 2024

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Students and graduates are reacting to the UNC Board of Governors' vote to repeal the 2019 DEI policy.

There are now conversations happening around what that action meant for all 17 schools in the UNC System. Many are wondering what these changes would look like on campus.

"Taking that away doesn't change anything for me, but I know it changes things for other people. Takes away things that matter to them," said RJ Savino, an NC State University doctoral student.

ABC11 met Savino on his lunch break as he walked across campus. He's not entirely clear what the Board of Governors' vote to repeal the previous Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policy means, but he said he was clear on where he stands.

"When you have these initiatives especially if they're proven positive over time, it's a step backwards," he said.

According to UNC System President Peter Hans, universities are "here to serve all, not just those who agree with us." He made that statement ahead of the vote Thursday morning and said when "these principles are faithfully held, they allow diversity in all forms to thrive."

The new policy requires schools to ensure equality for all people and viewpoints. The UNC system said facilities such as student cultural centers will continue to serve students. There are questions about the effect this new policy would have on positions and programs that specifically fall under the DEI budget at the system's schools. UNC Chapel Hill's Carolina Covenant Program is funded by DEI dollars.

"It scares me to say where I may be without it," said Dr. Lorenzo Hopper, an alum of UNC-Chapel Hill.

Hopper, 35, is a first-generation college student and two-time Chapel Hill graduate who received his bachelor's and PhD from there. He is also a former Carolina Covenant Scholar, which is a program that provides a full-ride academic scholarship to students whose families' income falls at or below 200% of the poverty guidelines. The 2010 graduate said he is both shocked and disappointed in the UNC Board of Governors' decision.

"I can tell you what it does not mean. It does not mean we are working to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion across our campus," he said.

Many are watching this conversation unfold and they are left wondering what the future of campuses across the UNC System will look like without the 2019 policy in place. It is slated to take effect during the 2024-2025 academic year.

"These programs help dismantle the barriers to higher education that have persisted for a very long time. If we really truly want to promote student success then I think we would take a second look," said Hopper.