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University of North Carolina eschews “divisive” DEI and invests in security

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Amid nationwide campus protests and efforts to overhaul diversity policies at state public universities, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Board of Trustees voted Monday to approve $2.3 million to fund diversity, equity and Inclusion programs funded should be diverted into public safety measures.

The unanimous decision precedes a UNC Board of Governors vote next week that is expected to limit DEI initiatives and lead to staff layoffs. The board's governance committee approved the change in April for all public colleges and universities, but the move requires a vote by the full board.

Trustee Marty Kotis, vice chairman of the budget committee, said the funds were needed for campus policing and security in light of the pro-Palestinian protests that swept campuses in late April and early this month. At UNC Chapel Hill, 36 protesters were arrested — six of them arrested — and during a protest on April 30, the U.S. flag was replaced with a Palestinian one.

“It is important to consider the needs of all 30,000 students, not just the 100 or so who may wish to disrupt the operations of the university,” he said.

According to Chapel Hill-based public radio station WUNC, Kotis also called the DEI policies first implemented at North Carolina's flagship university in 2017 “discriminatory and divisive.”

“I think that in many people’s eyes DEI means division, exclusion and indoctrination,” Kotis said, according to WUNC. “We need more unity and togetherness, more dialogue, more diversity of thought.”

The UNC Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which did not respond to USA TODAY's comments, says on its website that it aims to “celebrate all members of the Carolina community, expand our collective understanding and create a sense of belonging by uplifting people.” “promote different identities, cultures, experiences and perspectives.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, a well-known UNC alumna, retweeted a Raleigh News & Observer report on the DEI story but did not comment on it.

Hannah-Jones, who created the New York Times Magazine's acclaimed 1619 Project examining the legacy of slavery in the United States, was appointed to a professorship at UNC in 2021, but the board of trustees rejected the recommendation journalism department and denied her employment, leading to an outcry from students and faculty. She ultimately turned down the position and joined the faculty at Howard University instead.

Anna Harden

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