In recent Carolina Journal polling, immigration and the economy were the top issues for voters. But if one was to judge based on current headlines and debate, it would appear that the presence of DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) offices and initiatives on the state’s college campuses was also a top concern.

Here are just a few of the recent headlines:

Major conservative national news publisher The Daily Wire reported on DEI practices at the Duke University Medical School that may be directly sidelining certain applicants for staff or student positions for being white or male. Video of one Duke surgeon showed him discussing how they’ve stopped choosing based on metrics and are now using “holistic” life-story factors, including race and gender.

In response to a comment of mine on it, Republican candidate for North Carolina attorney general Dan Bishop said, “The law on this is very clear, and it will be enforced.”

Then, Jim Blaine — who is a UNC Chapel Hill Board of Trustees member, consultant, and former chief of staff to NC Senate Leader Phil Berger — casually dropped the bomb at a trustees meeting that he predicted the state’s public universities would follow Florida’s lead on DEI. Florida, for those who aren’t aware, has banned the use of federal or state money on DEI offices or activities on Florida’s public university campuses.

Carolina Journal confirmed with General Assembly leaders that legislation cracking down on DEI is in the works and will be considered in the upcoming short session. So, in theory, there could soon be both legal action taken by an incoming state attorney general and legislative action taken by the state’s Republican-supermajority General Assembly.

But response is not limited to North Carolina’s state-level elected officials. Bishop’s fellow member of the state congressional delegation, US Rep. Greg Murphy, R-NC3, filed the EDUCATE Act in the US House to remove funding from medical schools that use DEI to justify discriminating against applicants for staff or student positions.

“Diversity strengthens medicine, but not if it’s achieved through exclusionary practices,” Murphy said during his press conference.

A recent report on the nation’s law schools found very little diversity of opinion among professors. For the North Carolina law schools examined (UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, and Wake Forest), only one of the 91 professors who donated to a political candidate donated exclusively to Republicans, with 89 donating exclusively to Democrats and one giving to candidates from both major parties.

These kinds of ideological imbalances, and their apparent enforcement by DEI offices and trainings, have been tolerated for years. But it appears conservative voters and those they elect are no longer looking away and are determined to address the issue head on.

Two developments in recent days suggest that UNC System schools, of which there are 16, are getting the message that the conservative politicians who hold their purse strings expect them to be much more politically neutral.

In one incident, the UNC-Charlotte Student Government Association passed a resolution to declare Israel’s actions in Gaza as a genocide and to call for the school to divest from any anything connected to Israel. Fittingly, the primary sponsor of the resolution was the SGA’s “Vice Chair of the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee.”

And the administration turned them down flat, saying they wouldn’t be pressured into weighing in on controversial issues of the day. UNC-Charlotte alumnus US Rep. Richard Hudson, R-NC9, praised the college for taking this stance.

Also this week, further west at Appalachian State in Boone, progressive students are in an uproar about moves from the chancellor that reverse some of the privileges that they had enjoyed as the ideologically favored class. Anderson Clayton, the North Carolina Democratic Party chair, even visited campus to take part in these protests.

There were a number of complaints, including firing DEI and Title IX administrators, getting rid of the free-speech tunnel, changing the name of Pride Week to Spring Fest, allegedly unsafe conditions for art students, and canceling drag shows, all of which you can read about at their petition. It’s unclear what the campuses reasoning or response was on each of these issues.

While I’m personally not likely to visit a drag show or spraypaint a tunnel, the students do have a fair point on freedom-of-expression grounds. It’s one thing if the campus is endorsing certain views and events associated with left-wing groups, and some of these events do seem to have been funded in the past by the university. But if a group of students wants to organize their own drag event, that seems within the bounds of free expression one would see on a campus. This also applies if there was a tradition to have a free-speech tunnel where people can make their views heard on a number of issues. As the pendulum swings back towards normalcy, which it seems to be, it will be important for campuses not to swing too far and suppress free expression.

But we’re pretty far from that being the main concern. DEI has certainly gone too far, with offices on campus that operate like an inquisition, promoting proper views and suppressing improper ones. Voters have taken notice, and politicians are ready to draft legislation to push back. Whether it’s a bit of election-year red meat for campaigns or the beginning of a larger campus reconquista will soon become clear.