UMich defends multi-million dollar diversity investment. Outspoken prof doesn't buy it.
- The University of Michigan pays 82 diversity officers a total of $10.6 million per year.
- A similar diversity initiative, in which Columbia University splurged $185 million since 2005, found a lack of diversity.
Millions of dollars spent on diversity initiatives may not be amounting to much at the University of Michigan.
UMich is currently paying $10.6 million each year for its 82 “diversity officers,” MLive reported. Further scholarships and a new $10 million multicultural center are all part of a five-year strategic plan, launched in 2016 to diversify the campus.
UM-Flint professor of finance Mark Perry criticized the spending and offered an alternative use for the annual $10.6 million.
“For that amount of money, more than 700 students could receive full in-state tuition,” he said, according to MLive.
Perry surveyed the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) staff, challenging the “administrative bloat” from added diversity efforts.
“Mainstream Americans object to the diversity efforts that contribute to higher tuition and rising student loan debt that are contributing to the unsustainable ‘higher education bubble,’” the professor said.
The DEI employees at the university are relatively new. Until 2003, there was no employee with a diversity title. In 2004, this figure rose to 15, far below 76 where it sits now at UMich’s Ann Arbor campus. The university’s first chief diversity director, Robert Sellers, whose salary is $407,653, indicated the reported numbers are misleading and do not acknowledge the scope of responsibilities held by those in the diversity positions.
But if UMich’s diversity expenses do not have a noticeable impact, it would not be the first school to invest money in the initiative with little or nothing to show. Despite spending $185 million since 2005 on faculty diversity, a 2018 internal report found a “lack of diversity” when considering senior positions at Columbia University.
UMich President Mark Schissel defended his school’s spending on diversity employees in a Detroit News editorial.
“Some of these staff do work that is required by federal law, such as the professionals in our Office for Institutional Equity who conduct investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct, age discrimination, and gender bias and protect civil rights,” Schlissel said.
Sellers, too, defended the large use of time and money to make UM an inclusive campus as part of the school’s “core mission.”
Of the more than 2,000 action items in UMich DEI’s 2016 strategic plan, 92 percent are in progress or complete, according to the October DEI progress report. Notably, the college has started a program to give new laptops to students with family incomes of less than $65,000. Further, UMich has conducted several dozen “inclusive teaching” workshops for faculty and graduate instructors.
An “Inclusive Campus Corps” program is open to over 1,000 student workers. The program trains participants in areas of leadership, conflict management, and organizational change.
UMich’s DEI also sought to determine the inclusiveness of the campus according to students, staff, and faculty in a 2016 survey.
The survey found that students overall “report experiencing the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) elements of the climate in moderately positive ways. No significant differences are found between graduate and undergraduate students.”
However, “for both undergraduate and graduate students, female students report experiencing DEI elements of the climate in significantly more negative ways than male students. For undergraduate students, underrepresented minority students report experiencing DEI elements of the climate in significantly more negative ways than white students.”
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