On August 9, 2023, Do No Harm senior fellow Mark Perry sent the following letter via email to the entire Board of Trustees, the Chancellor, Provost, and General Counsel at the University of North Carolina (UNC). No response was received from any party.
Dear UNC Board of Trustees:
I was motivated to contact you after reading the 8/7/2023 article “Legal Compliance or ‘Interpretive Overreach’?” in Insider Higher Ed about your group’s recent discussions about whether UNC’s ban on the consideration of race for admissions should also extend to UNC’s hiring and contracting. In addition to considering a ban on considering race for employment and contracting, I would suggest that you should also address the issue of banning the consideration of race for UNC’s educational programs, events, scholarships, fellowships, internships, awards, etc. In fact, the consideration of race for those educational programs, etc. is already illegal according to Title VI’s prohibition of discrimination based on race, color, or national origin for recipients of federal funds like UNC. I can say that with some authority because I have more experience filing Title VI and Title IX complaints at colleges and universities than any other individual. To date, I have filed 855 federal civil rights complaints for more than 2,000 violations of Title VI and Title IX at more than 750 colleges and universities (many like UNC have multiple complaints). Based on those complaints, the Office for Civil Rights has opened nearly 400 federal civil rights complaints and more than 350 of those investigations have so far been resolved, mostly (90%) in my favor.
On December 19, 2022, I filed a Title VI complaint against UNC for its BIPOC*-only FERN: Fellowship for Exploring Research in Nutrition, and I shared a courtesy copy of that complaint with UNC General Counsel Charles Marshall and his staff (note that BIPOC = Black, Indigenous, People of Color). Within 24 hours of receiving a courtesy copy of my complaint, the FERN website was scrubbed of the BIPOC-only eligibility restriction and the fellowship is now open to all students regardless of race. UNC’s reaction was covered by the media including the article “UNC-Chapel Hill removes racial criterion for fellowship program limited to BIPOC amid civil rights complaint.” That quick 24-hour response reflects the fact that UNC’s General Counsel Office understands that all race-based discrimination for all of UNC’s educational programs is unlawful.
In addition to violating federal civil rights laws, race-based discrimination in UNC’s educational programs also violates UNC’s Statement on Non-Discrimination based on race, color, or national origin:
The University is committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment and to ensuring that educational and employment decisions are based on individuals’ abilities and qualifications. Consistent with these principles and applicable laws, it is, therefore, the University’s policy not to discriminate based on age, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or veteran status as consistent with the University’s Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment, and Related Misconduct. No person, on the basis of protected status [including race, color or national origin], shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to unlawful discrimination, harassment, or retaliation under any University program or activity, including with respect to employment terms and conditions.
Note that discrimination based on “employment” is already prohibited by UNC’s Statement above.
Following my 12/19/2022 Title VI complaint against UNC I found six additional programs and scholarships at UNC that discriminate based on race in violation of Title VI (and one that also discriminates based on sex) and filed the Title VI complaint below (see bottom email) on 12/26/2022. That complaint has been docketed by the Office for Civil Rights as Case #11-23-2067 and was opened for a civil rights investigation by OCR on 6/23/2023. I shared a courtesy copy of my 12/26/2022 complaint with UNC General Counsel Charles Marshall and his staff.
As you continue to guide UNC’s policy prohibiting all illegal race-based discrimination for admissions, educational programs, financial aid, employment, contracting, etc., perhaps it would be helpful to conduct a complete internal audit of all UNC units (schools, colleges, departments, diversity offices, etc.) for discriminatory scholarships, fellowships, awards, programs, events, etc. to help uncover other violations of Title VI in addition to the six violations currently under federal investigation. I am confident that there are other discriminatory programs at UNC that I have not yet discovered by reviewing UNC websites in addition to new programs that might be introduced that violate Title VI and/or Title IX.
Professor (em.) Mark J. Perry, Ph.D., University of Michigan
Senior Fellow, Do No Harm
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