Posted on May 5, 2021

GMU President Cites ‘Diversity’ to Justify Illegal Goal of Mostly Non-White Faculty

Hans Bader, Liberty Unyielding, April 28, 2021

The president of George Mason University wants to give minorities a big advantage in hiring until the faculty is as heavily minority as the school’s student body and the future, mostly non-white U.S. population. This is illegal, say lawyers and law professors. Indeed, GMU’s president, Gregory Washington, recognized that objection in an April 15 email to the university’s faculty, before saying it wouldn’t stop him from giving minorities a preference in hiring. Washington quoted a professor as saying:

I am concerned about what it really means to hire faculty and staff that ‘reflect the student population.’ The university’s job as an R1 institution is to hire the best faculty and administrators, period. The type of target hiring of minorities proposed through ARIE is both prejudicial and illegal. I would like to have this addressed.

In response, GMU’s president wrote, “If you have two candidates who are both ‘above the bar’ in terms of requirements for a position, but one adds to your diversity and the other does not, then why couldn’t that candidate be better, even if that candidate may not have better credentials than the other candidate?  Study after study has proven that the most diverse organizations, which recognize the importance of maintaining a diverse and inclusive environment, are the best performing organizations.”

The first sentence asks the faculty to engage in illegal racial discrimination. The second ignores contrary research, and gets causality backwards.

GMU’s president is misdefining “diversity” to mean huge, unrealistic percentages of racial minorities. George Mason University’s faculty is already diverse, as most observers see it. “The racial diversity of the faculty is above average,” says College Factual.

But it is not “diverse” enough for GMU’s president. He complains that the faculty is not as diverse as the “society” students “will enter” by the mid-21st century, which he says will not have a white majority. He notes that unlike GMU’s faculty, the “majority of our students are non-white and reflective of the nation’s expected ethnic make-up in the mid-21st century.”

The fact that the faculty are not as diverse as the student body is no reason to expand the use of race in faculty hiring. For example, the Supreme Court ruled that a school district could not lay off white teachers based on their race in order to keep black teachers, even though “the percentage of minority teachers was less than the percentage of minority students.”  (Wygant v. Jackson Board of Education (1986)).

“Diversity” does not require that a school be mostly non-white, or anything close to it. Boston has a mostly minority student population, but a court ruled Boston could not use race in admissions to increase the percentage of blacks and Hispanics at a selective school, because colorblind admissions would already yield enough diversity: a student body that was over 15% black and Hispanic. {snip}

{snip} College Factual says GMU’s faculty is about a quarter non-white (including 7.9% black, 6% Hispanic, and 9.1% Asian), and only 67% non-Hispanic white (some faculty are listed as “other race”).

Institutions can’t hire based on race to make their staff mirror society’s current racial composition, much less its future more heavily non-white racial composition. That would be “outright racial balancing, which is patently unconstitutional,” according to the Supreme Court.


President Washington argues that a “diverse” candidate is simply “better” and thus should be hired over a white candidate; but a federal appeals court rejected that argument when it was made by the City of New Orleans. The City unsuccessfully argued that Blacks can “better supervise” and “relate to” other Blacks. The Supreme Court rejected an argument similar to President Washington’s in its Wygant decision, ruling that black teachers could not be given priority over whites just because they were “role models” for black students.

President Washington also attributes GMU’s limited number of black and Hispanic staff to the effects of “structural racism.” But the fact that GMU’s faculty are whiter than its student body does not show discrimination. The faculty have special qualifications that students do not, and most faculty were hired at a time when applicants were whiter than they are today, due to America’s changing demographics. Comparing the faculty’s racial composition to students’ is an apples-to-oranges comparison, in the eyes of judges. The Supreme Court ruled that discrimination is not shown by comparing the racial breakdown of different components of an institution that have different qualifications. {snip}


The Supreme Court has said that “diversity” is a reason for colleges to consider race in admissions. But the same may not be true in hiring. Under the Constitution, diversity is not a valid reason for using race in hiring, according to a federal appeals court. (See Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod v. FCC (1998)).

GMU’s faculty hiring also must comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VII’s ban on racial discrimination does not appear to contain a “diversity” exception. {snip}