EXCLUSIVE: Diversity chiefs drowning in dough

Anthony Gockowski
Investigative Reporter

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  • Records show that America’s flagship universities are doling out an average of $175,088 per year for administrators tasked with leading their diversity efforts.
  • Spokespersons for several universities defended the salaries, saying they are commensurate to the job responsibilities, but some outside observers say the money could be better spent on assistance for low-income students.
  • Records show that America’s flagship universities are doling out an average of $175,088 per year for administrators tasked with leading their diversity efforts.

    That’s more than three times the average American household’s annual income, and just about enough to cover the sticker price of out-of-state tuition for six students.

    “Too many institutions spend lavishly on...highly-compensated and narrowly-focused administrative specialists”   

    Campus Reform has identified the salaries of the top diversity-related administrators at 43 of America’s 50 flagship universities, with requests for the remaining salaries still pending.

    In at least two cases—the University of Tennessee (UT) and the University of Maine—there exists no official diversity officer or senior-ranking administrator responsible for overseeing such initiatives (UT operated its diversity department with student volunteers for an entire year after state lawmakers temporarily forbade it from spending money on diversity-related activities), and Campus Reform could not obtain records from the University of Pennsylvania due to the absence of a state open records act, leaving only five schools outstanding.

    [RELATED: UT diversity office loses funding after Gov lets bill pass]

    On average, each administrative position, generally identified as some variation of a chancellor, provost, or dean, earns $175,088—though at least 15 such officials earn well over $200,000 annually, including two administrators who earn more than $300,000 annually.

    University of Virginia Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity Marcus Martin, for instance, earns $349,000 annually (the highest of any salary identified by Campus Reform), while University of Texas at Austin Vice President for Diversity and Engagement Gregory Vincent pulls in a comparable $331,000 per year.

    In fact, only three diversity-oriented administrators earn less than $100,000 annually, but none has a salary below $80,000.

    Meanwhile, the average head diversity administrator makes more than three-times the median household income of $55,775, and well over three-times the average American’s salary of $44,980.

    The average administrator profiled by Campus Reform makes a salary just short of those earned by pediatricians and dentists, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, though  administrators pull in more than airline pilots, petroleum engineers, lawyers, and air traffic controllers while earning roughly double the average salaries of physical therapists and commercial pilots.

    In total, state flagship universities spend a combined $7,528,821 annually on such administrators, enough to pay the average tuition (based on the combined average for out-of-state tuition) of 257 students.

    [RELATED: REPORT: Taxpayers losing BILLIONS to Ivy League tax breaks]

    J.B. Bird, director of media relations at the University of Texas at Austin, defended Vincent’s salary by emphasizing his impressive “portfolio,” which “comprises diversity, community engagement, and outreach,” and the management of “50 programs, including the UT charter school system which has 22 campuses.”

    “His salary reflects the competitive market for his leadership skills, as seen in his recent hiring as the next president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges,” Bird added.

    Meredith McGlone, director of news and media relations at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, stood by the university’s chief diversity officer’s salary of $226,000, saying “he manages programs that directly serve about 1,500 student and provide mentoring to an additional 1,500 students,” though noting that “ensuring fair and equitable treatment of students, faculty, and staff is a shared responsibility of campus administrators.”

    Similarly, University of Rhode Island Executive Director of External Relations Kelly Mahoney, explained that Chief Diversity Officer Naomi Thompson’s salary of $153,831 is commensurate with the “measurable gains for diversifying the student and faculty populations” she has made, saying her “leadership role is essential to achieving” the president’s goals.

    Some, such as Director of Media Relations Erika Mantz at the University of New Hampshire said a salary of $170,000 is “consistent with industry best practices,” which is to compensate “at approximately the median levels of comparable institutions.”

    The University of Nevada at Reno’s chief diversity officer salary of $159,040 was described as appropriate compensation because she serves in a “dual role,” functioning as the president’s chief of staff as well, while the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s spokesman emphasized the many programs overseen by the school’s vice chancellor for diversity to justify her salary of $105,000.

    [RELATED: AUDIT: Mizzou paid ‘excessive’ salary to former chancellor]

    While Michael Poliakoff, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), acknowledged to Campus Reform that “colleges today are educating a much broader range of students,” he suggested that “it is certainly worth asking whether runaway expenditures on inclusion and diversity staff are actually helping to create a campus where students of different backgrounds share their experiences and views.”

    “Too many institutions spend lavishly on teams of highly-compensated and narrowly-focused administrative specialists,” he added, noting that the University of California at Berkeley “spends $18 million annually on a staff of 150 in its Office of Inclusion and Equity.”

    “Let’s turn these funds instead to bringing more deserving students from underserved backgrounds to Berkeley,” Poliakoff continued. “It is crucial for boards and leaders to ask whether spending on new administrative salaries will serve the genuine needs of students or just fulfill the wishes of certain administrators.”

    As a means of identifying salaries, Campus Reform has utilized salary information made public by universities, salary databases published by school or local newspapers, or information made available by the state, links to all of which can be found in the spreadsheet embedded at the bottom of this article.

    The salary information contained in the spreadsheet reflects the most up-to-date numbers provided by the above three resources, and pertains to the one official at each state’s flagship university who Campus Reform verified as the highest-ranking administrator responsible for diversity initiatives.

    Campus Reform reached out to each school cited in the following spreadsheet, and will continue to update this story as responses are received.

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski



    Anthony Gockowski

    Anthony Gockowski

    Investigative Reporter

    Anthony Gockowski is an Investigative Reporter for Campus Reform. He has previously worked for The Daily Caller, Intercollegiate Review, and The Catholic Spirit.

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