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Spellings worries about HB2 impact on UNC system

Posted April 8

— The statewide discrimination law that lawmakers passed last month could have a "chill" on University of North Carolina campuses, UNC President Margaret Spellings said Friday.

Spellings said House Bill 2, the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, was hastily enacted, and she plans to work with the General Assembly to amend the law once UNC administrators can review its potential impact on the 17-campus system.

In addition to requiring people to use bathrooms that correspond to their biological gender, the law creates a statewide employment and public accommodations discrimination policy that excludes protections for LGBT people and blocks cities and counties from extending protections to them.

"You all would be mistaken if you thought we were not concerned about the kind of chill this is having as it relates to the climate, the culture, the goodwill that we attempt to engender here on university campuses as it relates to free expression (and) diversity," she said in a conference call with reporters.

Spellings said she is talking to U.S. Department of Education officials about the law and the possible loss of federal financial aid support and research grants because of any violations of federal anti-discrimination laws.

She said she also worries about the law's impact on recruiting students, faculty and staff to UNC campuses. The law is already causing anxiety on campuses, where several student protests have been held in recent days.

"I think broadly there's a sense, a fear, an anger, questions about what's next," she said.

On Tuesday, Spellings sent a memo to chancellors across the system, telling them they need to abide by the law and designate any multiple-occupancy bathrooms on the various campuses for single-gender use. She said campuses are free to have as many gender-neutral single-occupancy bathrooms as they want.

The UNC system doesn't plan to patrol bathrooms to enforce the law, however, she said Friday.

The memo "is in no way an endorsement of this law," Spellings said, but as a state official, she must uphold it.

"I’ve been concerned this guidance has engendered a belief we are driving hard forward with support for the law, and that’s not the case," she said. "We pride ourselves as institutions of diversity, inclusion, academic freedom, free speech, free expression.

"Anything that undermines that is a concern to me," she added.

Students said they hope Spellings backs up her words with actions.

"One of the most important things on this campus is respect and respecting our students," said Raven Norton, a UNC-Chapel Hill sophomore from Rocky Mount. "If you have to abide by it, make sure they respect the students."

In her memo to chancellors, Spellings also noted that no campus would have to change its anti-discrimination policies and "must take prompt and appropriate action to prevent and address any instances of harassment and discrimination in violation of University policies."

Tom Shanahan, general counsel for the UNC system, reiterated that Friday, saying the law allows governmental agencies such as university campuses to apply their own policies to their own employees.

26 Comments

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  • Mary Meadows Apr 14, 2016
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    Matt. It's pretty apparent that Shaun Lee is no more interested in looking at things rationally then a two year old would. It's a shame - he could have used his comments to try to further his point of view instead of painting a bad picture, being a poor representative and looking like a jack--well I don't want to get my comment removed. Let's see if he can fill in the blanks.

  • Charlie Watkins Apr 10, 2016
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    At a guess I would say that if you are college age and do not know which bathroom to use then maybe college is not for you.

    Just saying.

  • Dorian Grayfox Apr 9, 2016
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    How sad that the Republicans have intentionally tried to bring down the UNC system by appointing this woman know for her homophobic statements. We are very proud of being one of the most liberal communities in America and this woman will be packing her bags this fall as well as our current sad excuse for a Governor.

  • Matt Nickeson Apr 9, 2016
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    This is fun. I make reasoned and logical arguments. You launch ad hominem attacks then construct strawman arguments and then take them down. I could do this all day.

  • Shaun Lee Apr 9, 2016
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    Many conservatives already have! case in point Kim Davis, and Roy Moore who both encouraged others to ignore the law. Were you so vociferous then? I think not. The fact is that in light of the Supreme Court ruling in favor of gays, small minded bigots in small minded areas are trying to fight back a la George Wallace. To equal effect. If you had any backbone, you would be speaking against social injustice as opposed to your poor attempts at defending this silly blunder by our right wing "leaders" who have made us a national joke.

  • Matt Nickeson Apr 9, 2016
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    Is there a particular reason you feel compelled to ad hominem attacks? Most would consider that a sign of a weak intellect and argument. Again, you are arguing your own straw men and not what I stated. In the case of the revolution there was no viable course to reconciliation or means to address the injustice. In this case there is as indicated by the suit brought forth in the courts and numerous calls for change via the election box. I can assure you that your idea of my mindset is solely a construction of your imagination. The ultimate fact of the matter, which actually circles back to the argument, is that it is not at your, or anyone else's, discretion as to which laws to follow. I get the distinct impression that your Argument would be significantly altered if it were conservatives ignoring a law that you supported.

  • Shaun Lee Apr 9, 2016
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    You sir, may have paid for an education, but from your mindset, it seems obvious that you have reason to sue. If we were all to follow " the law" we would still be under the rule of England, correct? When "laws" are unjust, thoughtful citizen is certainly justified to ignore it. " the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. it is it's natural manure". Thomas Jefferson. "Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest". Diderot. Backwoods bible thumpers in a special one day session do NOT make laws that I care to abide with.

  • Matt Nickeson Apr 9, 2016
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    I can assure you that I am very highly educated. I can also be assured of the fact that you are not a lawyer. The law is not an optional edict which may, or may not, be followed at the discretion of each individual or entity to which it applies. Civil disobedience is an action performed by a person or entity against the government. The UNC system is the government. If you believe the law is unjust, and I have not once argued that it is not, then pursue that grievance through the normal means of address.

  • Victoria Clark Apr 9, 2016
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    Shaun Lee you're your own enemy.

  • Victoria Clark Apr 9, 2016
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    Spelling please listen as some moral values need to stay. I don't care about your job when it comes to my privacy. Sorry but I think anytime a woman goes into a bathroom it should be free of men. Please use your brains and not you fear losing your life style and have a Unisex bathroom. I am the one would file that lawsuit in this case for violating my privacy. A man is not a woman and never will be.

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