MARTIN CENTER: Do Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Offices Achieve Their Stated Goals?

[James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal] As Oscar Wilde tells us, “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” This is especially true of bureaucracies on college campuses. Once their seeds are planted, their growth often continues without check.

Administrative offices have been growing on college campuses since the 1980s, undoubtedly contributing to the increasing cost of a degree. Besides being expensive, administrative growth shifts resources away from education towards administrative programming. This threatens to undermine higher education’s central mission of teaching and research.

There has been particularly rapid growth over the past two decades in the area focused on the promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) on college campuses.

Aside from real concerns about the politicized and divisive nature of DEI, there are serious questions about whether or not these initiatives are even fulfilling their purported purposes—namely, to make students feel more welcome on college campuses.

DEI programs and administrators, as a relatively new and growing development, are understudied from a performance perspective. How many people work in DEI? How successful are these initiatives at carrying out their goals? A new report by the Heritage Foundation, entitled Diversity University: DEI Bloat in the Academy, takes a close look at these questions. The report is authored by Jay P. Greene, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and James D. Paul, distinguished doctoral fellow at the University of Arkansas.

Since DEI is a relatively new phenomenon, there is not a comprehensive dataset of all DEI staff in American higher education. A major component of Greene and Paul’s report is developing this data set, which they then use to evaluate the efficacy of DEI initiatives.

To build their data set, Greene and Paul selected 65 universities, representing 16 percent of all four-year university students in the United States. The universities are a collection of “the five ‘power’ athletic conferences: the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big 10, the Big 12, the PAC 12, and the Southeastern Conference.”

The authors used these universities because they are large public universities. In general, the universities chosen in their sample are not hyper-selective in admissions, do not maintain overarching political missions, and are usually supported by their state legislatures. Therefore, the authors posit, these universities represent a broad picture of U.S. higher education.

With this subset of universities, Greene and Paul used web searches and staff pages to identify which university staff fall under the DEI umbrella. They excluded staff from their count whose responsibilities included Title IX, health services, or researchers whose studies include DEI topics. As such, they acknowledge their total count of DEI staff at the 65 universities may be an undercount of the total personnel working in DEI-related positions.

With this method, Green and Paul found almost 3,000 individuals listed with DEI responsibilities at the 65 universities, with an average of 45.1 individuals devoted to DEI. [CONTINUE READING]

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