With affirmative action out, North Carolina’s flagship school bars use of race, sex in admissions

University of North Carolina cannot establish “through essays or other means” any regime premised upon “race-based preferences” in hiring and admissions.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down their school’s race-conscious admissions plan as violating the Constitution, the board of North Carolina’s flagship public university has voted to strictly bar the use of “race, sex, color or ethnicity” in admissions and hiring decisions.

The Board of Trustees at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill approved the resolution Thursday, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported.

In a pair of decisions announced June 29, court majorities struck down affirmative action in college admissions, ruling against UNC-Chapel Hill and Harvard University, the nation’s oldest public and private colleges, respectively.

Club leaders at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill interact with students outside the student union in a quad known at “The Pit” on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Hannah Schoenbaum, File)

“I’m confident that we’re taking all the necessary steps to fully comply” with the decisions, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz told the audience at the board’s meetings this week in what was the first in-person board gathering since the rulings.

Still, while schools nationwide are now looking for new ways to achieve diverse student bodies, the resolution tells UNC-Chapel Hill administrators that certain methods are now off-limits.

The resolution, initially approved by the board’s audit committee Wednesday, promises not to grant “preferential treatment” to any individual or group on the basis of race. The school also must not establish “through essays or other means” any regime premised upon “race-based preferences” in hiring and admissions.

Board member Ralph Meekins urged, without success, for members to postpone the vote, saying the resolution “goes well beyond the Supreme Court ruling.”

Earlier Thursday, trustee John Preyer criticized how UNC-Chapel Hill handled the litigation brought several years ago by a conservative group that accused the school’s undergraduate admissions policies of discriminating against white and Asian students. A trial judge in 2021 upheld the school’s actions, leading to appeals.

Proponents for affirmative action in higher education rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on October 31, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“This is a moment of humility,” Preyer said. “For nine years, we’ve spent in the neighborhood of $35 million to lose a high-profile case. Why did we do that? Was that the right thing to do?”

The trustees discussed this week other ways to comply with last month’s UNC-Chapel Hill ruling, which found the school’s consideration of race in admissions violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

“What we’re trying to do is be proactive with this and make sure that we’re in compliance and that we’re providing equal protection,” trustee Marty Kotis said. One school administrator mentioned Wednesday having an internal diversity, equity and inclusion audit but didn’t provide details.

Guskiewicz announced three weeks ago that the school would offer free tuition to students whose families make less than $80,000 annually. The program, which could help expand diversity efforts, is being paid for with private funds.

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