Dear Campus Community:
Over the past several weeks, since House Bill 2 (HB2) became the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, the response to this new law on our campus has grown more intense and more quickly than any issue we’ve faced in recent memory. Diversity and inclusiveness are at the heart of what makes Carolina a true University of the people. And many on our campus now feel excluded and unwelcome here and in our state.
Several days ago, we received guidance on HB2 issued by UNC System President Margaret Spellings about how universities in the system should interpret and apply HB2. To be clear, this was not intended to be an endorsement of HB2 – only guidance – and all of UNC-Chapel Hill’s relevant policies remain in effect. All that Carolina has worked hard to establish over the decades – policies including protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, and fostering a culture of acceptance, respect for one another and human dignity above all else – remain a fundamental cornerstone of what our University aspires to be.
Although the policies on our campus remain, there is no question that many in our LGBTQ community and many others are feeling unwelcome, unsafe and unhappy in the communities where they live and work. We all must work tirelessly to ensure that every member of our community feels welcome and safe and is able to share equally in the benefits of this place where we work, study and live. We encourage you to visit the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office for more information.
The memo from UNC General Administration also confirms that the law relating to public restrooms and changing facilities does apply to the University. This is an issue that is deeply personal and involves some of our most basic and extremely private dignities. We have been asked how the University intends to “enforce” this provision of the law. As noted in the memorandum, the law does not contain any provisions concerning enforcement. We have added and will continue to add public gender-neutral single-use restrooms and changing facilities throughout our campus and we will be adding additional signage.
It is clear that the impacts to Carolina go well beyond the personal toll. There are implications to us, ranging from conferences that will no longer send delegates to North Carolina and our campus; concerns and a pause among some prospective students, faculty, researchers and staff; current and prospective donors who are signaling a reconsideration of their gifts; grants and relationships with businesses that are now in jeopardy; and more. We will continue to share this feedback and concern about effects of the law on our campus with UNC General Administration.
What does this all mean today? We find ourselves in a complicated and uncertain legal environment, involving potential conflicts between federal and state laws that address sensitive issues about which people justifiably have strong feelings. The University must do its best to comply with all laws that govern us while taking practical steps to lessen discomfort and distress.
As University administrators and members of our Carolina community, we are in a challenging situation. We don’t agree with the Act, but as stewards of this great University we must comply with it while also ensuring Carolina is welcoming and inclusive, and continues to be an economic and innovation engine for the state. We want to reassure our community, whether they are here today, have been with us in the past, or are future Tar Heels, that Carolina is deeply committed to the ideals embedded in the soul of our beloved University.
Carol L. Folt
James W. Dean, Jr.
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
Felicia A. Washington,
Vice Chancellor for Workforce Strategy, Equity and Engagement
Posted April 8, 2016