On May 13th, in an emergency session, the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees recommended a $2.3 million divestment from diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); that money will go to the UNC Police Department. This comes less than a month after a UNC Board of Governors committee voted to wipe the entire UNC System’s DEI policy.

The full Board of Governors will vote on both recommendations on May 23rd.

On the heels of UNC vs. Students for Fair Admissions and the overturning of affirmative action, this is the second consecutive summer in which Carolina ‘excellence’ has been smeared.

The anti-DEI fight at Carolina is part of a national movement that has reached legislative bodies in 25 states. Florida serves as the movement’s poster child, but recent intellectual roots can be traced to conservative think tanks, like the Manhattan and Claremont Institutes.

Christopher Rufo of the Manhattan Institute has led the charge against DEI and ‘critical race theory.’ In 2023, Florida Governor Ron Desantis appointed Rufo to the New College of Florida Board of Trustees. Since then, the trustees have terminated DEI, gender studies, and the president of the university. A third of all faculty have now left, to which Rufo said “You do the demo and then you do the build.” Universities are not kitchens. Faculty are not appliances.

Publicly, anti-DEI rhetoric is based on neutrality and colorblindness, but behind the scenes, it’s a different story. Thomas Klingenstein of the Claremont Institute has confessed the insincerity of their narrative: “The Right argues that we want nonpolitical education…No we don’t. We want our politics. All education is political.”

UNC’s Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts also sticks firmly to the nonpartisan narrative. When asked about his stance on anti-DEI comments from trustees in April, Roberts said “I’m not gonna take a stand on a political issue.”

Klingenstein’s colleague Scott Yenor is less discrete. In a 2021 email, he wrote, “The core of what we oppose is ‘anti-discrimination.” Cut the double negative and Yenor is pro-discrimination. This is not far-fetched, given that Yenor writes extensively about how the 1964 Civil Rights Act has created a new form of American tyranny. Last month, The Guardian broke the news that Yenor was also behind “a far-right online media platform that featured ‘inflammatory rightwing commentary.’”

In 2022, Yenor published ‘Critical Social Justice in the UNC System,” essentially a roadmap for ending “the DEI industrial complex.” The UNC Board of Governors and Trustees have followed it closely.

The repeal of DEI is not a defense of UNC’s troubled history; this is an attempt to drown it – to prevent it from ever resurfacing. The word ‘history’ is misleading; we are living it.

For 160 years, UNC functioned explicitly for the success of white students. It has done so implicitly ever since. As a majority white, majority male Board of Trustees diverts DEI funds into a police department that violently stifles student dissent, this has never been more evident.

In the decades-long struggle for freedom between people of color and police, UNC has chosen police.

In the broader moral debate about what a society must do to reckon with its past, UNC has chosen denial.

In the last municipal election cycle, we helped increase turnout by over 20 percent. We're all volunteers who care deeply about Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and we're working to make Chapel Hill and Carrboro more vibrant, accessible, fun, and sustainable.  Please consider a small donation to help us keep our digital lights on, host events, and hire students to do data deep-dives.

Julian Taylor is a rising senior at UNC-Chapel Hill, where is a member of the Affirmative Action Coalition and a co-founder of TransparUNCy.