UNC System Guidance: Equality Within the University of North Carolina

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students,

On May 23, 2024, the UNC System Board of Governors voted to repeal Policy 300.8.5 in the UNC Policy Manual — which was called the Policy on Diversity and Inclusion Within the University of North Carolina — and replace it with a new policy, titled Equality Within the University of North Carolina.

Each university is charged with certifying — by Sept. 1, 2024, and on or before Sept. 1 annually thereafter — full compliance with the commitment to institutional neutrality and nondiscrimination required by law and this policy. This includes providing a report describing the actions Appalachian State University has taken to achieve compliance and how any savings related to these actions have been redirected to initiatives that support student success and well-being.

On June 28, the UNC System shared guidance with its constituent institutions, which I’ve been reviewing with members of my leadership team. In this guidance, the System has also indicated they will share a template for campuses to use to certify and report their compliance with the Policy on or before Sept. 1, 2024.

I’ve convened a working group to help assess the areas specifically referenced in the guidance and to ensure we are complying with the new policy as expected. This group includes representation from Academic Affairs; Athletics; Enrollment Management; External Affairs and Strategic Initiatives (including Human Resources and University Communications); General Counsel; and Student Affairs.

To help keep our university informed of the work we are doing, we’ve also created a website, which provides background information and resources, including the guidance issued by the UNC System. As the working group has updates to share, this site will be updated.

As we move forward with this work, I’d like to share some key points from President Hans:

  • “First, the university remains committed to welcoming and serving students of all backgrounds. North Carolina is a vibrant and diverse place, and our public universities should welcome the full breadth of talent in this state. Targeted initiatives to support specific student populations are well within the scope of the revised policy, provided they abide by nondiscrimination statutes and do not require students, staff, or faculty to adopt a political viewpoint as a condition of participation.
  • “Second, this policy is a powerful affirmation of academic freedom. The goal of principled neutrality is to prevent administrative staff from establishing official stances on contentious issues, precisely so that faculty remain free to teach and research. Students and student groups are likewise exempted from expectations of neutrality.

    “Simply put, the goal is more discussion, not less. As President Bill Friday elegantly wrote in 1970, ‘While individual members of the University community deserve our support as they speak and act in a responsible and constructive manner, it must be clearly understood that the University itself, as an institution, must remain non-political.’ This policy affirms that long-held understanding of the university’s role in public life.
  • “Finally, I want to acknowledge that fair-minded implementation of policies around nondiscrimination, equality of opportunity, and principled neutrality will inevitably raise challenging questions for an institution as vast and diverse as the University of North Carolina. I am committed to working with you in good faith as we pursue our shared mission of student success for all.”

I echo President Hans’ commitment to working, in good faith, alongside faculty, staff and students to ensure we are focused on student success in a manner that supports freedom of expression, academic freedom, nondiscrimination and institutional neutrality.


Heather Norris
Interim Chancellor