Debate on recent and proposed changes to higher education in North Carolina are heating up. Though not directly related to LGBT issues, if you’re LGBT and want to attend any of North Carolina’s 58 community colleges or 17 constituent institutions of the University of North Carolina you might want to pay attention; after all, LGBT people aren’t the only folks targeted by government-sanctioned discrimination.

Last week, North Carolina’s community college system passed a new regulation that would allow college officials to bar admission to any person who is deemed to pose an “articulable, imminent and significant threat.”

The Watauga Democrat reports:

Exactly what constitutes a threat will be determined in the coming months.

The policy amendment, in the works since last August, was solidified Friday by a vote of the State Board of Community Colleges.

The policy states that boards of trustees can adopt policies that refuse admission to protect the health or safety of the applicant or other individuals.

Colleges that cite the policy must provide detailed facts supporting the decision, the time period their decision will be applicable and the conditions that would allow the refused person to be admitted.

An appeals process also must be available.

The editorial board of UNC student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, is having none of it.

“Sometimes even the best intentions can have serious drawbacks,” the board writes, noting that labeling an applicant as a threat based on benign mental disabilities could put the community college system in violation of federal anti-discrimination laws and under threat of civil liabilities.

They further note: “This decision was passed just two weeks after the Jan. 8 shooting in Arizona in which the suspect, Jared Loughner, appears to have been mentally unstable. The amendment had undergone a public hearing and commentary before the Arizona shootings occurred, but we hope the vote to make it a rule was not a knee-jerk reaction to that event.”

The rule goes into effect on April 1.

On the legislative front, North Carolina lawmakers introduced today a bill to deny undocumented immigrants admittance to state community colleges and UNC System institutions. Sponsored by Onslow County Republican George Cleveland, the House legislation would allow those undocumented immigrants already enrolled to finish their programs. It would not apply to undocumented immigrant youth in public secondary schools who are taking courses at community colleges or UNC System institutions as part of a joint-study program. The bill is co-sponsored by nine Republicans, including anti-LGBT Forsyth County Rep. Larry Brown, who made news last fall and this month for a series of anti-gay comments.

“Education is being attacked everywhere, from the increase in tuition, reduction in budgets, layoffs of professors, fewer funds for schools, to preventing students without papers from fulfilling their dreams. It’s a battle that we will get through together,” Viridiana Martinez, a member of NC DREAM Team, told Spanish-language news agency Efe according to a wire report published by Fox News.

The North Carolina Community College board decided late last year to admit undocumented immigrants. They pay out-of-state rates. The move to restrict access to higher education has already taken a foothold in neighboring states, advocates say.

“There are other neighboring states like Georgia and South Carolina that already do not accept undocumented students. We don’t want that to happen here, and so today we’re also starting an education campaign so that the community can become acquainted with the issue,” grassroots coordinator Hector Vacar of Action NC told Efe.

Photo Credit: Lordcolus, via Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.