UNC Needs a Full and Frank Discussion on Diversity BEFORE the Board of Governors Acts

With little notice and no discussion, a UNC Board of Governors committee last week recommended eliminating jobs and programs that promote diversity at all 17 campuses.

The Coalition for Carolina believes there must be a full, frank and open debate on the issue before the full Board of Governors acts in May.

We need, above all, to hear from students who might be affected.

We need to hear from faculty and staff who are familiar with the value of these programs, as well as any problems with them.

We need to see the data about the effectiveness of diversity programs – pro and con.

We need, as the UNC community, to proceed thoughtfully and knowledgeably before acting abruptly in response to political pressure.

Yes, we know that powerful politicians in Raleigh are targeting diversity efforts on campus.

Yes, we know that states like Florida and Texas are doing away with university diversity programs.

But we don’t know – and nobody has shown – that UNC’s diversity efforts are harmful.

And we don’t know if eliminating those programs might hurt students.

In an editorial, The Daily Tar Heel said, “DEI is a fundamental aspect of education and benefits everyone, not just people from marginalized communities. Through DEI services, underrepresented students can find community and support at their institutions, and seek justice for a history of discrimination in higher education.”

https://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2024/04/opinion-editorial-despite-what-the-board-of-governors-say-dei-is-essential-to-our-university

The proposed new policy was released publicly only the day before the BOG committee met. It was passed in just a few minutes, with no discussion.

Some UNC students went to Winston-Salem, where the meeting was held, to oppose the move. They weren’t allowed in the meeting room. They weren’t even allowed in the building where the meeting was held.

That may have violated the state’s public-meetings law.

At a full board meeting the next day, WUNC reported, “BOG members and UNC System President Peter Hans made no public comments about the policy.”

WUNC added:

“Since he became system president in 2020, Hans has made it a point to answer questions from the media after UNC Board of Governors meetings. But after this meeting concluded, he declined to answer questions on the record from WUNC or other media outlets, and instead issued a written statement.”

Story: https://www.wunc.org/education/2024-04-18/unc-board-governors-eliminate-dei-hans

Does the UNC System fear open discussion and public scrutiny?

Ironically, some critics of diversity are the very people who loudly clamor for “free speech” and “civil discourse” on campus.

Let’s have free speech and civil discourse on this vital issue now.

We call on President Hans, the Board of Governors and Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts to make sure there is a constructive discussion.

We are confident that discussion will befit the “light and liberty” guiding our university since its founding.

Trustees Chair John Preyer Got the Memo, But Didn’t Get the Message

The UNC System sent a loud and clear message to the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, but Chair John Preyer clearly doesn’t get it.

A Jan. 12 memo to the trustees from UNC System President Peter Hans and Board of Governors Chair Randy Ramsey told the board, as one trustee said, “to stay in our lane.”

But Korie Dean of The News & Observer reported last week that Preyer, “disagrees with that interpretation,” telling The N&O the memo was “an administrative, housekeeping thing.”

Preyer is wrong. It was more than housekeeping. It was more like being taken to the woodshed.

As Dean reported, the clear purpose of the memo to the trustees is “to remind them of their responsibilities and scale back their powers.”

You can read her story here: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article287138430.html#storylink=cpy

The story details eight powers, mostly related to personnel and salary, that the memo took from the Board of Trustees and reassigned to the interim chancellor. It also notes that Hans and Ramsey reminded trustees to follow state law, system policy and their own bylaws in setting meeting agendas.

Dean reported that the memo came up at a March 27 meeting of the board’s budget and finance committee.

There, trustee Jim Blaine — former chief of staff to Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and a well-connected Republican political consultant — said he believed either the General Assembly or the Board of Governors would “follow Florida’s path” this year and potentially eliminate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts at state universities.

Blaine said UNC staff should “develop a contingency plan for that expectation.”

Trustee Ralph Meekins, who has served on the board since 2019, brought up the Hans-Ramsey memo and urged board members to not “jump the gun on those kinds of issues.”

Meekins said, “We’ve gotten a memo from them recently telling us to stay in our lane. And I think this is one area where we need to stay in our lane. Let’s wait and see what they say, and then we can adapt and we can meet whatever the ramifications are from any changes in our DEI.”

Read the full memo here: https://coalitionforcarolinafoundation.org/letter-from-ramsey-and-hans-to-preyer-and-roberts/

We strongly support the memo. Preyer should respect it.

We first reported the memo March 29. We called it “significant – and laudable – action to support sound leadership at UNC-Chapel Hill.”

Read our report here: https://coalitionforcarolinafoundation.org/a-big-step-forward-unc-system-president-and-board-of-governors-rein-in-trustees-at-carolina/

Our Coalition has spoken out strongly against trustees overstepping their authority and improperly interfering in campus operations.

The memo, tellingly, was sent the same day that Hans appointed Lee Roberts interim chancellor.

We were gratified that Roberts told our March webinar that trustees’ role should be “guidance, advice and advocacy” and emphasized that he reports directly to President Hans.

But Preyer, the trustees’ chair, told The N&O that he viewed the memo as “an administrative, housekeeping thing to bring UNC and the other school into the same position of all the system schools.”

It is much more than that.

It is a clear directive to the trustees.

It is a good plan for a sound, shared system of governance at UNC.

Preyer should read it and heed it.

The Coalition Response to Kotis’ Attack and Lee Roberts Video Clips

Just a few hours after our March 20th webinar where UNC Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts engaged in an open and respectful conversation with the Coalition for Carolina, trustee Marty Kotis, once again, pulled out his political hatchet and started swinging away at us.

In his attack, Kotis misrepresented our coalition, called former UNC System President Margaret Spellings a “RINO” and dismissed Chancellor Roberts’ participation in our webinar as “trying to play nice.”

It didn’t take Kotis long to attack us. Our webinar with the Chancellor ended at 11:45 am Wednesday, and his comments were posted in an article by Joe Killian of Newsline at 2:39 pm.

Coalition co-founder Roger Perry responded to the attack immediately and it was published by Killian the next day.  We have posted our response on our website and you can follow this link to access it.


Speaking of our webinar, we continue to receive favorable feedback from around the state and are very appreciative of interim chancellor Lee Roberts for taking the time to answer every question that he was asked.  If you missed the webinar, we’ve created a playlist of nearly all of his answers and you can click the play list to watch each clip. 
Click here to watch the entire Lee Roberts Webinar Playlist

Alternatively, below are links to several of the videos in the playlist titled with the topic he addressed.  Click on any link to watch a particular video from the play list.

Lee Roberts – Important Values I bring to CarolinaRoger Perry – Shares some facts about Carolina faculty salaries with interim chancellor Lee Roberts.Lee Roberts – Says he would do nothing different as State Budget Director education funding wise.
Lee Roberts – His Top Priorities for CarolinaLee Roberts – Explains what he views as “shared governance”.Lee Roberts – Has not read Governor’s Commission report, but shares thoughts on board diversity.
Lee Roberts – Explains what role he sees Carolina playing in promoting democracy.Lee Roberts – Shares if “lack of civility” led to American Democracy learning requirement.Lee Roberts – Addresses whether Carolina should pursue diversity in wake of Supreme Court decision.
Lee Roberts – Explains how he views the trustees’ role juxtaposed to his role and the faculty’s roleLee Roberts – Thoughts on linking ROI to education and training students for the workforce.Lee Roberts – Addresses question of if Carolina should grow admissions and accept more students.
Lee Roberts – Shares what he thinks of the new School of Civic Life and LeadershipLee Roberts – Appreciates how Carolina’s research powerhouse lifts and enhances North Carolina.Lee Roberts – Answers question about banning legacy admissions at Carolina like UVA has done.
Lee Roberts – Shares how he views his role, priorities for legislature, thoughts on faculty salaryLee Roberts – Answers if he undervalued /shorted higher education when he was State Budget DirectorLee Roberts – Shares his thoughts on philanthropy and private giving.  
Lee Roberts – Had no opinion on Alabama law, but shared thoughts on free exchange of ideas.Lee Roberts – Addresses question about friendship with Art Pope and being on Pope company boards.Lee Roberts – Shares what he worries could go wrong at Carolina.  

Other News:

Roger Perry Responds to Marty Kotis’ Attack on Our Webinar with Lee Roberts

Just a few hours after UNC Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts engaged in an open and respectful conversation with the Coalition for Carolina, trustee Marty Kotis, once again, pulled out his political hatchet and started swinging away at us.

Kotis misrepresented our coalition, called former UNC System President Margaret Spellings a “RINO” and dismissed Chancellor Roberts’ participation in our webinar as “trying to play nice.”

It didn’t take Kotis long to attack us. Our webinar with the Chancellor ended at 11:45 am Wednesday, and his comments were posted in an article by Joe Killian of Newsline at 2:39 pm.

The article said, “Roberts sitting down with the coalition is part of his being open to everyone as the University’s new chancellor,” Kotis said,” but not something he would personally do as a trustee.”

Kotis’ comments are contrary to the spirit that Roberts demonstrated throughout the hour and 15 minutes – and to the open, non-partisan and fact-based debate that the University needs at this critical time.

At the beginning of the webinar, the interim chancellor said “debate about the future is good.” He welcomed “a respectful exchange of ideas.”

Kotis seems more interested in an exchange of insults.

He called our coalition “a political organization.”

That’s not true. We are 501c3 and c4 organizations that have only one primary mission.  That mission is to advocate for Carolina’s faculty and administration against governance overreach from the Board of Trustees and others. With the guidance of some of North Carolina’s best attorneys, we strictly adhere to the laws governing such organizations. We do not engage in partisan politics.

Kotis took a shot at me: “I think he (Roger Perry) ended one of his videos basically telling people that they need to vote at the polls. And so, you know, we know what that means. If you don’t like what’s happening at the University, vote Democrat. They are using the topic of the University as a wedge issue.”

As I recall, I did do so unapologetically.  I am proud of encouraging North Carolinians to vote. Does Kotis not want everyone eligible, to vote?

The Newsline article noted that Kotis “has sparred with the Coalition and its founders since its founding.”

Killian wrote:

“The group concentrates on divisive political issues surrounding the University and UNC System, Kotis said, without spending an equal amount of time talking about the university’s many successes and laudable metrics.”

Kotis is partly right. We’re concerned because some trustees and the North Carolina General Assembly are using “divisive political issues” in a way that jeopardizes “the University’s many successes and laudable metrics.”

As the Newsline article noted, our coalition is nonpartisan. We are Democrats, Republicans and Independents. We are alumni, faculty members and supporters of the University. We are former trustees and Board of Governors members who, as Killian wrote, “are concerned about the politicization of the university and political overreach by the legislature.”  We are nearly 30,000 strong.

Killian reported:

“The group emphasized that bipartisan concern in a recent webinar discussion with former UNC System Presidents Tom Ross and Margaret Spellings, a Democrat and Republican respectively, who co-chaired the governor’s commission that produced a series of reform suggestions.”

Kotis replied by calling Spellings, who served as secretary of education under former President George W. Bush, a “RINO” — Republican in Name Only.

That’s insulting to Spellings. It’s immaterial. And it’s hurtful to UNC.

The University would be better served if trustee Kotis emulated the open, nonpartisan spirit that Interim Chancellor Roberts demonstrated in our webinar.

Roger Perry of Chapel Hill, a UNC graduate, served on the Board of Trustees from 2002-2010 and as chair of the trustees from 2006-2008. He is a co-founder of the Coalition for Carolina.

The Month with Mimi – March 2024

Hi, everyone.

I’m Mimi Chapman, a professor at UNC Chapel Hill and co-founder of the Coalition for Carolina.

March was a big month here at the Coalition and we don’t want you to miss anything.

We began by focusing on emails obtained through a Freedom of Information act request.

They showed that two outside groups worked closely with two trustees, not with the campus administration, to arrange for Heather Mac Donald, a fellow with the right-wing Manhattan Institute, to speak to the trustees last fall.

The outside groups were the UNC Alumni Free Speech Alliance and the Martin center for Academic Renewal. The trustees were Ramsey White and chair John Preyer.

We learned that Mac Donald was paid $11,000 to come here and address the trustees, attack UNC, and attack our students and colleagues of color, as well as demean higher education across the country.

Next, we had a hugely successful webinar with interim chancellor Lee Roberts. 200 plus people attended at the time of the webinar and many have watched since. He said he hasn’t seen evidence of “a liberal bias” among faculty that affects their teaching at Carolina.

He said that the role of the trustees should be guidance, advice and advocacy, and that he reports directly to UNC system president Peter Hans. He believes that the controversial new School of Civic Life and Leadership will be a tremendous asset to UNC. We are not sure on that one, but we will certainly keep our fingers crossed.

Also, we were thrilled to receive a copy of a letter that was sent to interim Chancellor Roberts and to the  trustees chair. This letter, which, excuse me, which was dated January 12, 2024 and sent by UNC system President Peter Hans and the board of Governors Chair Randy Ramsey, speaks to the relationship between the chancellor and the board of trustees.

The letter appears to be a reset for how the board and the chancellor should work together, including a collaborative process for creating BOT meeting agendas, changes in authority delegated to the board, among others.

You can read that memorandum on our website.

Reading this memorandum meant an awful lot to us. For two years, we have been drawing attention to how governance has been out of balance on our campus. As a researcher, I’m not going to infer direct causation, but we think our work is making a difference and we hope you’ll join us. We think this memorandum is exhibit A, and as Roger likes to say, Hark the Sound.

Related links: