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Legal Compliance or ‘Interpretive Overreach’?

Legal Compliance or ‘Interpretive Overreach’?

Inside Higher Ed

Liam Knox
August 7, 2023
Late last month, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Board of Trustees gathered for its first in-person meeting since the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action.
They were debating a resolution to ban the consideration of race not just in student admissions but also in hiring and contracting decisions, which many legal experts say goes beyond the scope of the ruling. Chapel Hill chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz had already said the university would comply with the court’s decision. But the board’s lawmaker-appointed members—who have butted heads with faculty and administrators in recent years over everything from a new Civic Life school to a recent tuition reduction proposal—pushed ahead to ensure their interpretation of the ruling was enforced.
The discussion stretched on for two days and was at times contentious, no doubt in part because Chapel Hill was one of the losing defendants in the case and had spent tens of millions of dollars and the better part of a decade to prevent the outcome. The trustees seemed to resent the effort spent defending affirmative action; Trustee John Preyer called it “a moment of humility.”
The resolution passed 10 to 1. The lone no vote was from Ralph Meekins, a Chapel Hill alum and veteran attorney who argued that the board was doing more than bringing the university into compliance with the Supreme Court decision; it was purposefully and unwisely broadening its implications.
“This resolution goes well beyond the Supreme Court ruling, and if you talk to any lawyer, they’ll tell you the same,” he told his colleagues in a last-ditch effort to persuade them to table the vote.
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