A ban on DEI at UNC? Really? (Or APRIL FOOL ???)

Many of you may not know Jim Blaine.  He’s frequently IDed as a “former aide to senator Phil Berger.”  That’s putting it modestly.

The little guy is actually HIS MASTER’S VOICE.  And his master is none other than don Berger-ino, boss-of-bosses over on Jones Street.  if Boss Berger wants something done, it’s done. (It is interesting that this comes public in such close proximity to April Fool’s Day.)

If Blaine is talking publicly about it, it’s because Berger told him about it and urged him to spread the word:

The North Carolina General Assembly’s short session is set to begin in less than a month, and there was a fresh sign this week that the state legislature could take up a hot-button issue in higher education: diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI.

At a committee meeting of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, board member Jim Blaine — the former chief of staff to Republican Senate leader Phil Berger and a powerful political player in the state — predicted that North Carolina could become one of the next states to eliminate DEI efforts at its public universities.

“It’s my belief that it is likely that the Board of Governors or the state legislature will follow Florida’s path as it relates to DEI this year,” Blaine said. Florida has dominated much of the national conversation over higher education in recent years, with efforts to ban DEI — among other decisions made by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and state lawmakers — becoming flashpoints.

[…] Blaine said he agreed with Florida’s actions on DEI and said North Carolina enacting similar legislation or policies would be “the right decision.” “I think what I’ve seen, in my opinion, is that DEI creates and exacerbates problems on this campus and doesn’t solve them,” Blaine said. “So I hope that they do move forward in eliminating DEI. I think it’s the right thing to do.” Though North Carolina has not fully banned DEI, laws and policies passed by lawmakers and some university leaders over the past year-plus — including a ban on “compelled speech” in university hiring and admissions — have already shown similarities to efforts in Florida


Blaine told The News & Observer he did not want to comment beyond his remarks Wednesday or provide more information about what leads him to believe a ban might be on the horizon. But House Speaker Tim Moore’s office confirmed it is taking a look at potential DEI legislation. Berger’s office did not respond to requests for comment from The N&O Thursday.

State Rep. Jon Hardister, a Whitsett Republican who co-chairs the House committee on universities, told The N&O that legislators have talked about DEI legislation “in an abstract manner” but said he was not aware of any bill that had been drafted. “Several legislators have talked about it casually, but there’s no concrete plan that I’m aware of,” Hardister said.

He added that “it certainly wouldn’t surprise” him if the issue comes up in the short session, which begins April 24. Blaine is a partner at Martin & Blaine, also known as The Differentiators, a political consulting firm he operates with Ray Martin, Berger’s former press secretary. The pair are considered to be highly connected politically, working in 2020 on the attorney general’s race and a congressional race and with an organization raising money to ensure that Republicans maintain control of the North Carolina House and Senate, The N&O previously reported.

For the 2024 elections, campaign finance reports show several statewide GOP candidates have paid Martin & Blaine for work, including UNC trustee Dave Boliek, who is running for state auditor as a Republican. Blaine also previously served as a consultant and strategic adviser for the UNC System, making $15,000 per month.



A handful of other trustees on the 15-member board — which consists mostly of conservative-leaning members — agreed with Blaine during a roughly 10-minute discussion of DEI Wednesday, though one member said the board’s discussion was outside its scope of authority. On Thursday, the university’s student body president voiced his support for diversity efforts at the university. Blaine’s comments and the broader discussion came as the Board of Trustees’ budget and finance committee was discussing the process the university will use to draft and approve its budget for the upcoming fiscal year. He urged university staff to be prepared for a possible ban on DEI spending and how that could affect various entities at the university.

“I think rather than us be caught flat-footed, I would suggest that we work to develop a contingency plan for that expectation,” Blaine said. Blaine suggested that if the university is no longer able to spend money on DEI, that it should consider ways the money could be used to meet the university’s other priorities, such as funding graduate-student stipends or improving graduation rates.

Trustee Marty Kotis agreed with Blaine, saying that “the sentiment for a lot of folks around the state is that DEI is causing more divisiveness than coherence at the university level.” “And so I think it is a proper target to consider for reallocation of those funds to better uses,” Kotis said.

Boliek, who said he believes DEI has caused “distrust” in higher education, agreed “100%” with Blaine’s remarks about “contingency planning and taking a look at where we have allocated funds in our budget to DEI efforts.”

“If there is a change in policy that funds it, we should be prepared,” Boliek said. Polls show a widening gap in how people view higher education based on their party affiliation, with Republicans generally having more negative perceptions of universities than their Democratic counterparts.

A July Gallup poll showed confidence had dropped considerably overall. Trustee Ralph Meekins said the board should not have been discussing a yet-to-be-seen policy, and that the board should wait for guidance or policies to come down from the UNC System Board of Governors or the legislature on the issue. “Let’s see where the policy goes before we start addressing it ourselves,” Meekins urged his fellow board members.



Asked by The N&O Thursday about whether DEI efforts have value at the university, UNC interim Chancellor Lee Roberts said he sees “a value of diversity across multiple dimensions.”

“Not just diversity itself,” Roberts said, “but also making sure that once people earn a spot at the school, that they feel as though they’re welcomed here, as though they belong.”

Roberts said administrators would work to answer trustees’ questions about DEI and related spending at the university. The university employs a chief diversity officer and operates an Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which has a stated mission “to celebrate all members of the Carolina community, to broaden our collective understanding, and foster a sense of belonging by uplifting diverse identities, cultures, experiences, and perspectives.”