The UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees voted Monday to reallocate $2.3 million
of taxpayer and trust fund dollars from Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs
at the university to public safety.

“I think it’s instructive that the Board of Governors committee unanimously approved changing the strategic direction of DEI and replacing DEI initiatives with an overall policy that looks toward equality and a meritocracy,” said budget and finance committee chairman Dave Boliek during Monday’s special meeting. “I have stated before and I’ll state again, I thinkthat DEI is divisive, I don’t think that it’s productive, I don’t think it gives a return on investment to taxpayers and to the institution itself.”

The funding change is part of the board’s approval of the larger university’s All-Funds budget. It would give Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts management flexibility to ensure enough resources are available to make safety and order a priority on campus. It comes as the systemwide UNC Board of Governors preps for a vote on Wednesday to remove DEI language from the system policy handbook.

“I think it’s a good budget that makes investments in important areas, most notably campus safety,” said Roberts in Monday’s meeting. “We’ve had the discussion about DEI, and obviously I await the final policy from the system and the implementation guidance.”

Lee Roberts, interim chancellor of UNC Chapel Hill, walking with campus police towards a flagpole to take down the Palestinian flag put up by protesters and put the American flag back up. Source: screenshot from video posted on The Daily Tar Heel X account. Used by fair use.

Roberts found himself at the center of national news over the last week when he intervened in an anti-Israel protest in Polk Place on UNC’s campus. Accompanied by law enforcement and being shouted at by demonstrators, Roberts replaced the American flag that demonstrators had removed. His office warned the demonstrators, many of whom were not students, repeatedly over the multiday encampment that the university would not tolerate violence or damage to taxpayer-owned property. Police ultimately removed the encampment early on May 7.

Boliek said in Monday’s meeting that the university requested help during the campus unrest from the office of Gov. Roy Cooper, but help was denied. Boliek is currently running for the Republican nomination for state auditor in the second primary election on Tuesday. He said the reallocation is practical, so campus police have more resources in case there is a safety crisis and outside help never comes.

“It is a shame that the town of Chapel Hill refuses to aid our local university police when called upon on multiple occasions, and also that our governor’s office refuses to aid our university police and the maintaining of order on our campus,” said Boliek in the meeting. “I think the $2.3 million would be an added help with respect to how much we’re having to spend on law enforcement.”

Part of the impetus for the shift is the recent US Supreme Court decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. UNC-Chapel Hill. The decision has sparked a focus on eliminating race-based preferential treatment at all levels of the university.

UNC Chapel Hill Board of Trustees meeting on May 13, 2024. Source: YouTube

“We just spend $30 million on the SFFA suit,” said committee vice chairman, Marty Kotis. “We’ve got a board resolution for nondiscrimination, and I think there are lots of
different programs that don’t comply with that. … I think that DEI in a lot of people’s minds is divisiveness, exclusion, and indoctrination. We need more unity and togetherness, more dialogue, more diversity of thought.”

Kotis also suggested the university’s system of funding special interest and issue groups with student and taxpayer money may need further examination. He offered a few options, including giving students more of a say in how those discretionary fees are allocated, or making them optional. He also suggested requiring that campus activist groups raise their funds themselves, rather than getting funds through the university system.

“GoFundMe is a great source, as we’ve seen, you can raise $600,000 for people in a matter of days,” he said. “If they’re passionate about the project then the folks that have passion projects should raise those funds themselves.”

UNC’s Students for Justice in Palestine helped organize last week’s protests that caused damage to the campus, including red paint spilled on the South Building stairs, windows and walls during this weekend’s commencement celebrations.

“North Carolina taxpayers are watching this, and they are not happy,” said Kotis.

“It’s important to consider the needs of all 30,000 students not just the 100 or so that may want to disrupt the universities operations,” Kotis added. “It takes away resources from others. There’s a real cost when you’ve got 20 people out there cleaning up this paint and you’ve got damage to property. One law enforcement officer had someone out there mention where his
wife worked, which I think is an attempt to intimidate. That really bothers me. When the university has to shut down, folks in this office can’t come in. That’s a real problem.”

A vote of the full UNC Board of Governors on DEI policy is scheduled for this Wednesday, May 15.

Editor’s Note: This story was corrected on May 14, 2024 at noon to correct quote attribution from Patrick Ballantyne to Marty Kotis, vice chairman of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees Budget and Finance Committee.