Jay P. Greene and James D. Paul, The Federalist, August 2, 2021
Once upon a time, universities viewed their core mission as helping students to acquire the knowledge, critical thinking, and communication skills that would enable them to become more productive members of society. But higher education today has a new central concern: promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
Universities now devote a tremendous amount of money — and a large number of administrative and staff positions — to programming and services related to DEI. A central purpose of this effort is supposedly to create a more positive and welcoming environment for students.
To gauge just how large this effort is, especially relative to other college priorities, we collected information from 65 major universities, representing nearly one-sixth of all students in four-year institutions in the United States.
We discovered that, overall, the number of DEI-dedicated staff is dramatically out of proportion to other programs serving higher education goals. For example, the typical university devotes 4.2 times as many staff to promoting DEI initiatives than they do to helping disabled students get reasonable accommodations — and the latter is required by law. On average, DEI staff outnumbered history professors by 40 percent. Overall, there are 3.4 people working to promote DEI for every 100 tenured or tenure-track faculty members.
Some universities had strikingly large numbers of people with DEI responsibilities in their job titles. At the University of Michigan, for example, 163 people have formal responsibility for providing DEI programming and services. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has more than 13 times as many people devoted to promoting DEI as providing services to people with disabilities. Georgia Tech has 3.2 times as many DEI staff as it does history professors. The University of Virginia boasts 6.5 DEI staff for every 100 professors.
Many universities we examined have surveyed their students to determine how they view campus climate. One would expect campuses with larger DEI staffs would be perceived as providing a more positive, welcoming environment. In general, that’s not the case.
For example, the University of Michigan boasts the largest DEI staff, yet there is a sizeable gap between how white and non-white students perceive the campus climate. A 2016 survey found that 73 percent of the school’s white students were satisfied or very satisfied with the campus climate. But among minority students (with Asian students notably excluded from the survey category), that figure dropped to 62 percent for undergraduates and 55 percent for graduate students.