UNC Board of Governors member Darrell Allison abruptly resigned from the board last week, citing “personal reasons.”
In a letter to N.C. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, Allison called serving on the board a “high honor.”
“And while I am most confident that our UNC System will find its way trough the many challenges it currently faces, it must do so without my continued service on this board,” Allison wrote.
His resignation, effective September 23, creates a vacancy that must be filled by the N.C. General Assembly.
Allison, one of just three voting Black members on the 24-member board, was tapped to chair the board’s Racial Equity Task Force, which began meeting in July. The task force and its work were personally important to Allison, who in his resignation letter cited his undergraduate education at North Carolina Central University and said his work on the board has allowed him to “work hard in supporting and advocating for many of our historically minority-serving institutions, and our other smaller institutions which comprise our System with genuine knowledge of need and concern.”
At its first meeting the task force heard a report on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion survey results that found the system falling below its benchmarks. In fact, the results were worse than those from 2018.
When the task force was launched, board Chairman Randy Ramsey and UNC System Interim President Bill Roper made a strong statement about the importance of its work in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and the movement for reform that followed.
“George Floyd died a horrible, violent, and unjust death at the hands of a white police officer,” Ramsey and Roper wrote in the statement. “This immoral and indefensible act cries out for justice and compels all of us fully to recognize and grapple with our country’s history of racism and oppression that has so often resulted in violence. As members of the University community, it is our obligation and responsibility to do the hard work needed to address inequities in the UNC System for the benefit of students, faculty, staff, and all North Carolinians.”
Since then Republican sentiment on race equity work has turned sharply negative at the state and national level — particularly with regard to the “history of racism and oppression that has so often resulted in violence” Ramsey and Roper cited.
Earlier this month President Donald Trump threatened to cut federal funding to schools that teach The New York Times Magazine’s 1619 project. He also had the federal Office of Management and Budget prohibit departments from use of federal funds for executive branch staff training that includes critical race theory and the concept of white privilege as a component of systemic racism in the history of the United States and in contemporary life. That ban was later expanded to include federal contractors.
“Instructors and materials teaching that men and members of certain races, as well as our most venerable institutions, are inherently sexist and racist are appearing in workplace diversity trainings across the country, even in components of the Federal Government and among Federal contractors,” an executive order on the matter read.
“Americans should be taught to take PRIDE in our Great Country, and if you don’t there’s nothing in it for you!” Trump tweeted on the decision.
Trump reiterated his opposition to race equity and racial sensitivity training in Tuesday night’s debate with Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
“They were teaching people to hate our country, that it’s a horrible place, it’s a racist place, and they were teaching people to hate our country,” Trump said. “And I’m not going to allow that to happen.”
Allison, who is politically unaffiliated, is one of just five members on the 24-member board who is not a registered Republican. There are no registered Democrats on the board.
Allison is heavily involved with issues and campaigns important to the GOP, however. He is past president of school choice advocacy group Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina and was on the North Carolina steering committee for Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential bid.
On Thursday Ramsey released a written statement thanking Allison for his service.
“I would like to thank Darrell Allison for his valued and thoughtful service on this Board, particularly as Chair of the Racial Equity Task Force and the Committee on Historically Minority-Serving Institutions,” Ramsey said. ” Darrell is a passionate advocate for public higher education and the entire UNC System and he we will be missed. I’m also confident Reggie Holley will continue to advance the important work of the Racial Equity Task Force and build upon the accomplishments of the HMSI Committee formerly under Darrell’s leadership.”