UNC Board of Trustees votes to maintain racial discrimination in admissions

Marty Kotis, a trustee at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, introduced a measure last month that would stop the university from discriminating on the basis of race and other immutable characteristics.

The Board of Trustees voted against his resolution.

Last month a federal judge ruled against a student advocacy group and affirmed UNC legal authority to racially discriminate.

On Nov. 4, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Board of Trustees voted to kill a measure that would prohibit the consideration of race, sex or ethnicity in admissions and hiring.

The measure was introduced by member Marty Kotis, a relative newcomer to the board who had been appointed in the summer of 2021. Kotis’ motion was seconded, though only him and one other board member voted to pass it. The exact wording of Kotis’ proposal reads as follows: “The University shall not discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to an individual, group or company on the basis of race, sex, color or ethnicity.”

A full video of the discussion leading up to the vote was provided to Campus Reform by UNC Chapel Hill and can be found here.

[RELATED: Memo reveals UNC plan to sideline ‘diversity of thought’ ahead of Nikole Hannah-Jones appointment]

Lamar Richards, UNC student body president and member of the board, said the resolution was “honestly disrespectful.”

”The idea that somehow by creating a more diverse campus you have to lower our standards is just false” he continued “the language of this motion is not going to fly with me.”

Campus Reform contacted Richards to ask him why he considers “not discriminat[ing] against or grant[ing] preferential treatment to an individual, group or company on the basis of race, sex, color or ethnicity” to be “disrespectful”; this article will be updated accordingly.

Richards wrote a column for North Carolina Policy Watch in June urging students of color to avoid applying to or attending UNC Chapel Hill until a “rebirth” occurs related to alleged institutional racism at the institution. 

In an interview with Campus Reform, Kotis criticized Richards for writing the piece. He questioned how telling Black students not to apply to UNC was conducive to promoting diversity and pointed out how people would’ve likely called the article racist if Richards wasn’t Black.

[RELATED: WATCH: Trustees meeting disrupted by UNC students protesting for Nikole Hannah-Jones]

Kotis’ desire to reform UNC’s admission and hiring policies comes roughly a week after a federal judge ruled that the university was within its legal rights to discriminate on the basis of race.

“In sum, the Court concludes that UNC has met its burden in demonstrating that it has a genuine and compelling interest in achieving the educational benefits of diversity” the judge who decided the case wrote. She cited Supreme Court precedent related to Fisher v. University of Texas when delivering her ruling.

Kotis told The News & Observer, a local paper, that the court ruling was one of his motivations for raising the issue. “A goal of diversity can be achieved by greater recruiting efforts, scholarships, all sorts of things to increase diversity without having to discriminate or admit people with different standards,” Kotis said in an interview with The News & Observer. 

Kotis also argued that “UNC Chapel Hill is seeking to be more liberal than California”, pointing out that the state has a ban on racial discrimation in college admissions that was recently upheld by a near 15 point margin in a recent state-wide referendum.

[RELATED: UNC faces a lawsuit alleging discriminatory admissions based on race]

Teresa Artis Neal, a colleague of Kotis on the board, was one of the members who voiced opposition to his proposal. 

“I’m concerned with the notion that diversity brings a lowering of standards,” she said in response to the motion “It’s my understanding this incoming class has some of the highest, if not the highest, academic achievement from a performance standpoint.”

When talking with Campus Reform, Kotis challenged Neal’s claim that affirmative action doesn’t lead to a lowering of standards. He cited a memo Susan King, former dean of UNC’s journalism school, put out last August where she announced the removal of the school’s minimum GPA requirement as part of an effort to attract more students from minority backgrounds.

Trustees Ralph Meekins, Gene Davis and Rob Bryan also voiced their opposition to the measure. Meekins was concerned about the effect the resolution would have on UNC ability to attract a diverse student body and Davis claimed no discrimation was taking place due to the “holistic” approach taken by the university.

Kotis pushed back on Davis’ claim that UNC isn’t discriminating due to its comprehensive approach to admissions while being interviewed by Campus Reform. He pointed out that his motion would not have hampered UNC’s ability to consider things like income or geography in admissions, but that it simply would’ve removed race and other immutable characteristics from the process. He told Campus Reform that UNC should be judging applicants and job candidates as individuals, not considering if they belong to a group they have too many or too few of.

When asked about the future of affirmative action at UNC Chapel Hill and if he has any further intent to address it, Kotis stated that he doesn’t currently plan to make another motion similar to the recent one. He did, however, advocate for further discussion on the subject and for UNC to be more transparent with applicants with regards to how race is factored in during admission decisions. He also pointed to the possibility of a Republican trifecta in North Carolina after the 2022 elections, which he said could lead to changes in the legality of affirmative action. 

Every member of the UNC Board of Trustees reached for comment by Campus Reform; none except Kotis responded in time for publication.