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Students mill about in front of a library on a college campus

Students in front of Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the UNC System’s flagship campus.

Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images

The University of North Carolina System Board of Governors voted on Thursday morning to eliminate a policy requiring diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) offices, and to ask individual campus chancellors to cut positions and spending on DEI.

The vote, which passed 22 to 2, will institute a new “equality within the university” policy to replace DEI. Chancellors at the System’s 16 campuses must each submit a report outlining steps they’ve taken to comply with the DEI ban to System president Peter Hans by September.

“Our public universities must take a stance of principled neutrality on matters of political controversy … it is not the job of the university to decide all the complex and multi-dimensional questions of how to balance and interpret identity,” Hans said at the board meeting. “This policy will preserve the university’s role as a trusted venue for that vital debate.”

Board member Pearl Burris-Floyd, who is Black and voted yes on the policy change, stressed that the decision should not lead to the widespread disappearance of essential services for minority students, and that the board has not “turned their backs on them.”

“Even if it's not called DEI, we have a way to help people and make that path clearer for all people,” she said.

DEI bans have been enshrined into law in Texas and Florida, where they’ve led to dozens of layoffs and the closure of student resource centers. Lawmakers in North Carolina had proposed a similar legislative mandate, but ultimately deferred to the UNC board.

The vote also comes shortly after the board of the System’s flagship, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, voted to divert $2.3 million in DEI funding to police and campus safety in the wake of pro-Palestinian student protests.