University Of North Carolina Quietly Scrubs Race-Based Criteria From Fellowship Program

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Alexa Schwerha Contributor
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A University of North Carolina (UNC) nutrition fellowship program scrubbed criteria that made the fellowship exclusive to black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) students after a civil rights complaint was filed alleging the program violated federal anti-discrimination laws, the program’s website reveals.

UNC’s Fellowship for Exploring Research in Nutrition originally claimed students must have a “Racial/ethnic background of [BIPOC] that is historically marginalized in academia and the field of nutrition in the United States” to be considered, according to a Dec. 19 snapshot of the website. However, the current website appears to have removed the criteria from the list.

Pace Sagester, UNC at Chapel Hill’s Media Relations Manager, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the website was updated since it “provided eligibility criteria which did not accurately reflect Carolina’s commitment to inclusion.”

“The eligibility criteria on the webpage have been corrected,” Sagester said. “Carolina remains committed to an inclusive and equitable community for all. A diverse student body is vital to fostering academic excellence, helping to broaden understanding among people of all backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences, spurring innovation and preparing engaged citizens and future leaders.”

The fellowship also updated its mission by claiming that it seeks to “enhance” rather than “increase” diversity in the nutrition field. The revised mission clarifies that the fellowship is open to all undergraduate students and includes “those from groups that have been shown to be underrepresented in health-related research.”

“Obesity disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and other historically marginalized communities; yet people from these communities are traditionally underrepresented among researchers working to develop, research, and evaluate food and nutrition policies to address obesity,” the website reads. “Increased representation in food policy research is critical for developing effective, equitable, comprehensive, and culturally competent policies that address nutrition-related health disparities.”

Do No Harm Senior Fellow Mark Perry filed his Dec. 19 complaint with the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights on the basis that UNC’s program discriminated against non-BIPOC students. He claimed that the eligibility standard violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits race-based discrimination. (RELATED: Minnesota School District ‘Illegally Excluded’ White Students From Drug Abuse Prevention Grant, Complaint Alleges)

The program began accepting applications on Dec. 9, according to its website. The program will begin on May 29, 2023 and run for 9-weeks. Participating undergraduates receive a $19/hr wage, paid housing, research opportunities and professional development.

It is hosted by the Global Food Research Program, which is in UNC Chapel Hill’s Carolina Population Center. The program “provides a unique opportunity to undergraduate students interested in exploring research in food policy, with the long-term goal of increasing representation from groups historically underrepresented in nutrition research,” its website states.

Perry, the OCR, the Global Food Research program and the Carolina Population Center did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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