A nonprofit advocating for a race-blind America vows to take its pushback on the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in medical schools to a new level: asking leadership to admit the harm of DEI to medicine.
Earlier in May, the efforts of Color Us United (CUU) and its partners drove the University of North Carolina (UNC) system to end its task force integrating social justice into the medical school’s curriculum. That made UNC the first medical school to do so.
The task force, led by E. Nathan Thomas III, vice dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion at UNC’s medical school, was a part of the public institution’s DEI initiatives. In its final report (pdf) released in October 2020, the panel stated goals such as training and evaluating medical students and doctors on social justice, DEI, and health care disparities—another name for structural racism in hospitals. The report also recommended tying DEI evaluations with student admissions, faculty promotion, and tenure guidelines.
“We are not done with UNC; I know that they still have DEI practices going on,” Kenny Xu, president of CUU, told The Epoch Times. “We really want to push [Dean of UNC Medical School] Wesley Burks to admit the harms that DEI is causing upon their employees and patients, from the training to the seminars to the preferences and admissions that are lowering the quality of doctors and the standard.”
He said he would expand CUU’s efforts to other top medical schools, including Harvard and Johns Hopkins.
In a letter dated May 11, Kristen Stevenson, senior university counsel of UNC at Chapel Hill, told the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), a group advocating free speech rights on college campuses, that the task force “has concluded its work” and “the recommendations have not been operationalized.”
“There is no plan to implement the Task Force’s recommendations now or in the future. Even if the recommendations were revisited in the future, further review and revision would be required,” she added, referring to a UNC systemwide policy that prohibits the university from making admission, employment, or promotion decisions based on “beliefs, affiliations, ideals, or principles regarding matters of contemporary political debate or social action.”
The policy the UNC Board of Governors adopted in February came days after North Carolina State University rescinded a controversial essay question asking applicants to describe how they would “contribute to a more diverse and inclusive environment.”
If passed, a North Carolina Senate bill currently progressing in the state legislature would ban compelled speech of applicants as a condition of getting a job in any state agency, department, and institution.
Five Months and $100,000
Xu said the end of the task force was the outcome of a five-month $100,000 campaign, mainly on advertisements and lobbying. CUU and its partners worked on four groups to influence the UNC system—board of trustees, alumni, state legislature, and the general public—in the red state where Republicans control both the House and Senate, he added.
CUU’s next step is to email employees of UNC at Chapel Hill to ask them to report any continued DEI training.
“We know, at Color Us United and across the country, that Americans don’t care about the race of their doctor; they just want the most qualified doctor,” Xu told reporters at a press conference on Thursday.
Another DEI Task Force
In the spring of 2021, Thomas convened another task force that made similar recommendations. However, emails (pdf) the National Association of Scholars obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request showed that Thomas wanted to keep this task force secret.
“I feel confident saying that when UNC rejects the task force integrating social justice, which is the public task force released by the med school, they really are scared about the blowback of the DEI,” said Xu. “They’re not going to stand behind this other task force because it’s basically the same thing.”
The Epoch Times has contacted Thomas and UNC for comment.