By David Bass
Marty Kotis said he was simply trying to start a public discussion when he proposed a motion related to anti-discrimination policies.
Kotis serves on the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill board of trustees. Kotis on Thursday, Nov. 4, offered a motion that would have prohibited the university from making admissions decisions on the basis of “race, sex, color or ethnicity.” The proposed policy change reads similarly to existing policies enacted by other universities and in other states.
“What I really wanted was some public discussion on the matter,” Kotis told Carolina Journal. “One of the things I’ve heard anecdotally from parents is sometimes a feeling that their kid applied and didn’t get in and someone else did who they felt was less qualified. I wanted to clear the air on that concept and ensure we are not allowing people into the school for any other reason than academic merit — that we’re not trying to socially engineer the school for appearances’ sake.”
Kotis said the university should aim for equality of opportunity in admissions, and not try to meet quotas based on race or sex.
The board ultimately voted down the motion, with Kotis and Allie Ray McCullen the only “yes” votes. One of the “no” votes at the meeting came from Lamar Richards, who also serves as undergraduate student body president at UNC Chapel Hill.
“This resolution is honestly disrespectful. That’s the only way I can sum it up,” said Richards, who wrote a column in June encouraging anyone “from a historically marginalized identity” seeking to attend UNC Chapel Hill “to look elsewhere” until a “rebirth” occurs at the school.
According to Ballotpedia, seven out of 16 schools in the UNC System make admissions decisions based in part on race.
Even deep-blue states like California have banned the use of race and sex in college admissions decisions, Kotis said. In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 209, which bans admissions discrimination on the basis of sex, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin. Last year, California voters upheld that law by a 57% margin.
“In that respect, UNC Chapel Hill is seeking to be more liberal than California,” Kotis said.
“We need to have more of a public discussion on all of this,” he added. “We need to be shedding sunshine on what we’re doing here. If we’re not doing anything wrong, why not let people understand how these different processes work?”
The vote comes on the heels of a federal court ruling last month upholding the university’s use of race in admissions decisions, in addition to the firestorm surrounding the potential hiring of Nicole-Hannah Jones at the UNC Chapel Hill School of Journalism.
“We’re in a world now where being against discrimination makes you a racist,” Kotis said.