The Board of Governors at the University of North Carolina (UNC) took a stand against woke ideology last week by voting to eliminate diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) statements from its admissions, hiring, tenure, and promotion processes, even as its Board of Trustees approved the creation of a new School of Civic Life and Leadership committed to the principles of free speech and open debate.
When DEI is used as a factor in any selection process, applicants are judged not by their merits but by their skin color, their embrace of woke ideologies like intersectionality and social justice, or whether they are part of an oppressed or privileged class.
“…shall neither solicit nor require an employee or applicant for academic admission or employment to affirmatively ascribe to or opine about beliefs, affiliations, ideals, or principles regarding matters of contemporary political debate or social action as a condition to admission, employment, or professional advancement.”
The resolution further explained,
“Practices prohibited here include but are not limited to solicitations or requirements for statements of commitment to particular views on matters of contemporary political debate or social action contained on applications or qualifications for admission or employment included as criteria for analysis of an employee’s career progression.”
Why the board decided to eliminate DEI at this juncture is unclear. One very likely reason is that officials at UNC, along with Harvard University, are awaiting a ruling by the Supreme Court considering whether their race-based admissions policies are unconstitutional.
The Board of Governors’ decision also came amidst a major anti-DEI campaign on campus. A non-profit organization called Color Us United, which advocates for a race-blind society, initiated a petition after realizing that DEI had infiltrated UNC’s medical school and its admissions and hiring decisions. In an interview with Fox News, Kenny Xu, the group’s president, said:
“We believe in a race blind, meritocratic society with high standards and that’s what has traditionally produced excellence in the United States. When we saw wokeness and DEI infiltrating the medical profession, that’s when we became concerned because medicine is the one place where everybody knows, liberals, conservatives, independents, that you need the most qualified doctor to get the best outcome.”
The Board of Governors’ decision to eliminate the use of DEI in hiring also follows a unanimous vote by UNC’s Board of Trustees to create a School of Civil Life and Leadership dedicated to the principles of free speech. The school will allow UNC students to “explore American civic values with the full freedom of expression, intellectual diversity, and open inquiry that such studies require.”
One reason all of this is so surprising to outside observers is because of UNC’s reputation for capitulating to wokeness on campus. The school’s emphasis on race-based admissions, DEI in hiring, and approved viewpoints had been problematic enough that it earned UNC a spot on the Top 10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech list put out by the Freedom for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) in 2022.
For example, in July of that year, the student government banned the use of its university-provided funds for pro-life student groups or at pro-life businesses. UNC also investigated two faculty members for criticizing the Board of Trustees over how they handled tenure applications.
Although some worry that the new Civic Life school and its free speech environment will ultimately be undermined by the presence of woke professors, the move is at least a step in the right direction, according to FIRE. In taking a cautionary position, its officials stated:
“While housing a program dedicated to open inquiry is a welcome development, extending its ethos to UNC as a whole will require cooperation from trustees, administrators, students, and professors. And it’ll take a strong commitment to principle. As FIRE has seen time and time again, when protecting free speech gets tough, universities often get censorial, attempting to stifle speech that offends or provokes instead of letting the conversation play out.”
The use of DEI and embrace of woke ideology remain problems in higher education that undermine the academic mission. According to reports by both American Enterprise Institute and the Goldwater Institute, the use of DEI statements is rampant on university campuses, but like UNC, some government leaders and schools are beginning to reject them.
For example, Gov. Greg Abbott, R, recently sent a letter to Texas public universities informing them that DEI in hiring violates state and federal law, including the 14th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act.
In response, the University of Texas (UT) Systems announced it has paused all procedures promoting DEI and has asked school leaders to provide a report on current DEI policies. Kevin Eltife, the board chair for UT System board, explained,
“Certain DEI efforts have strayed from the original intent to now imposing requirements and actions that, rightfully so, has raised the concerns of our policymakers around those efforts on campuses across our entire state.”
Texas Tech stated that it will also eliminate DEI in hiring processes after John Sailer, a fellow at the National Association of Scholars, published documents showing that the school’s biology department had used knowledge of DEI and commitment to its growth on campus as part of the scoring for hiring.
Texas Tech University System Chancellor Tedd Mitchell stated,
“I don’t believe in litmus tests of any kind. It’s no more appropriate to ask them if they’re a Christian or Muslim. When we find out something like that has occurred, we stop it.”
Texas A&M University has also eliminated DEI from its hiring practices. The vice president of faculty affairs told college deans in an email to only consider a cover letter, professional references, resume, and a personal statement when considering applications.
Let’s hope these moves by UNC and the Texas schools will wake up other higher education institutions to return to merit-based selection criteria. DEI, like censorship of dissenting views, is divisive and harmful to the academic mission. Although it typically discriminates against whites and Asians, DEI also hurts other groups and ethnicities that it claims to help. The more students are told that they are oppressed and that the country intentionally stops them from reaching their goals, the more hostility they feel towards their country and towards their fellow students and other Americans. DEI is evil and should be removed from all academia.
Higher education is meant to help students prepare for a career, grow as a person, increase their knowledge in numerous areas, and learn how to think. Instead, these colleges are indoctrinating them and teaching them to believe that, by dint of their skin color and background, they are either victims or oppressors — with no individual agency or free will to help themselves or get along with others.
Matthew 7:1-2 says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
All of us want to be treated fairly. When we apply for a job, we hope that the employer considers whether we are the best applicant for the job — not whether we had the most progressive DEI statement. In life, we hope that our neighbors view us by our actions, not by our skin color.
Bravo to UNC and others for finally getting rid of unfair admissions processes and hiring practices. May many others quickly follow their lead.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.