EXCLUSIVE: How 12 public universities spent $230K on DEI training over 20 years

Campus Reform submitted multiple FOIA requests that revealed a dozen colleges have spent nearly a quarter million dollars on diversity, equity, and inclusion training since as early as 2001.

Despite increased media attention on Critical Race Theory in recent years, the earliest obtained public record shows that Kankakee Community College spent $3,000 on 'diversity hiring training' in 2001.

Following a September 2020 memo from former President Donald J. Trump, ordering the Office of Management and Budget to stop funding training on Critical Race Theory for federal employees, the term CRT gained immense traction in the media. 

One of the outcomes of this memo was the rise in awareness of parents and an increase in their willingness to pay attention to their child’s curriculum. 

[RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: OSU spent $100k on 4 diversity workshops]

However, colleges and universities across America have been leading and encouraging Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training that push certain CRT ideas in schools for much longer than parents realize.

According to public records obtained Campus Reform through multiple Freedom of Information Act requests, 12 colleges and universities across the country collectively spent over $230,000 in the last 2 decades on different DEI training initiatives. 

Salem State University:

In August of 2020, Salem State made an agreement with Strategic Diversity Initiatives (SDI) to create and deliver a two-part DEI training called “Mental Toughness Workshops.” This series cost the school $2,500. 

SDI “is a certified LGBTQ – and Woman-owned consulting firm with 25 years of experience providing world class education and consultation around diversity, equity & inclusion,” according to the organization’s website. 

Its founder and president, Anne Phibbs, is the former Director of Education at the University of Minnesota and was “responsible for developing and implementing their successful Certificate Program, a series of 10 workshops designed to increase capacity for diversity and inclusion work across every part of the institution.”

Pima Community College:

On February 1, 2021, Pima Community College also signed an agreement with SDI, which involved one virtual workshop and a guest speaker. The contract states that SDI would “prepare, host and facilitate a 2 hour workshop on ‘The Importance of Language in creating Inclusive Environments.’”  

The event description further states that the workshop “for faculty and staff will provide participants with information and tools for understanding the importance of language on creating environments where people from diverse identities feel a stronger sense of belonging.” 

Strategic Diversity Initiatives developed the materials and hosted the virtual lecture, which was only for faculty and staff. The school paid $2,500 for this one-part Zoom training.

Normandale Community College

Normandale Community College (NCC) signed a contract with SDI in 2018, which included a description of the two-part workshop called “Advancing Racial Equity: History, Context & Privilege.” The content in this training was also created by Strategic Diversity team, and cost the college $3,000 for 2, 2-hour long workshops. 

University of North Dakota: 

A contract for a 4-hour virtual “DEI session for Inclusion Ambassadors Program” featuring guest speaker and president of SDI, Anne Phibbs, was signed by the University of North Dakota and Strategic Diversity Initiatives in May 2021. The topic of this training was “emotional readiness to engage in systemic diversity, equity and inclusion work.” 

Phibbs created the lecture for UND, which had an expected attendance of 25-35 people and an overall cost of $5,000. 

Kankakee Community College:

Kankakee Community College (KCC) was an early adopter of workshops centered on these ideas. In 2001 KCC signed an agreement with DiversityWorks, Inc., which is “a coalition of diversity educators from different fields and disciplines.” 

According to the website, DiversityWorks facilitates workshops and services for K-12 schools, higher education, strategic planning retreats and more.

The workshop put on by DiversityWorks for KCC was a one-part training on “Diversity Hiring (Cultural Diversity in Education Program).” 

The in-person workshop was 7 hours long for 30 participants and cost a total of $3,500. 

Harper College: 

In 2012, Harper College bought two DVDs from Diversity Works LTD, which were titled “Crosstalk” and “Performance Appraising across cultures.” 

According to the website, the first film is a 35-minute documentary on “cross-cultural communication,” and “shows how intercultural misunderstandings occur.” 

The second film, “Appraising across cultures,” is a 30-minute series of interviews with people from East Asian cultural backgrounds at American companies and includes a 32-page manual. 

In total, Harper College spent over $400. 

Johnson County Community College:

Johnson County Community College (JCCC) contracted DiversityWorks, Inc. in 2005 to host a series of 3 workshops in March, April, and May of 2006. 

The first training on March 13 lasted five hours and focused on the topic of “New Paradigms for Diversifying Faculty and Staff in Higher Education.” 

The second five-hour workshop combined “Understanding how Biases, Assumptions, and Stereotypes Impact Educational Climate and Achievement,” and “Creating Inclusive Educational Communities for Culturally Diverse and Minority Students.” The third lecture was “The Hidden Curriculum in the Classroom: Causes and Effects of Intercultural Conflict in the Classroom.” 

Each of these three workshops cost $3,500, excluding airfare and lodging. Collectively JCCC spent over $10,500 for this series of DEI training. 

University of Illinois at Chicago:

Topping the list for most expensive DEI training is the University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC). In 2018, UIC signed a contract with Kardia Group, LLC, which describes themselves as a “leading strategic partner in the transformation of the culture, functionality, and success of the academic endeavor.” 

The training from Kardia comprised three parts: “regular meetings with principal investigator team,” “Yearly on-campus project planning meetings” for two years, and a “2-day studio on inclusive excellence in STEM teaching” for two years. There were seven regular meetings with Kardia’s leadership, which totaled $7,000, two on-campus plannings which cost $7,300 each, and two 2-day studios at $29,200 each. 

This three-part program cost UIC $80,000 total. 

Read more about UIC’s contract with Kardia here

Michigan Technological University:

In 2016, the Mechanical Engineering Department at Michigan Technological University (MTU) signed an agreement with the Kardia Group to help the school create a “major curricular revision and a meaningful investment in diversity and inclusion.” 

Kardia designed a three-step plan for MTU that consisted of one-and-a-half days of onsite consultation, a faculty survey, and a faculty “retreat” focused on “diversity-related awareness and skill building.” 

Each portion cost $6,000, $5,000, and $7,000, totaling $18,000 for this workshop. 

Iowa State University:

During 2012 and 2013, Iowa State University (ISU) signed two contracts with The Barthwell Group, Inc., for a series of DEI training that cost over $20,000 each.

The 2012 agreement included a meeting with ISU Department of Aerospace Engineering, reviewing the school’s diversity & inclusion surveys, developing a “pilot inclusion plan to enhance aerospace’s inclusion environment,” and assistance with implementation of the action plan. 

This portion cost ISU $24,976. 

The 2013 agreement comprised seven “deliverables,” which included developing a work plan and timeline, facilitating meetings between ISU and “diversity pipelines partner[s],” developing a “summer program for women and African-American undergraduate studies,” and identifying funding sources for the summer program. These services cost ISU $28,252.

In total, these two DEI action plans cost the school $53,228.   

Central Michigan University: 

Central Michigan University (CMU) contracted The Barthwell Group as well, for a “Diversity and Inclusion Assessment” consisting of three separate “VIP networking” events. The Group suggested a five-step process for CMU, including a meeting with the school and stakeholders, determining a guest list and target market, coordinating and facilitating the networking events, and generating follow-up reports. 

The contract and subsequent extension lasted until July 2016, and cost CMU $40,000.  

University of Cincinnati:

The University of Cincinnati (UC) was also relatively early in adopting DEI training. 

UC signed a 2014 agreement with Pope Consulting, Inc. in 2014, which proposed a three-part training for the school’s “leadership team.” 

Pope’s approach included individual interviews, a “team interaction profile assessment,” and finally an “engagement retreat.” 

The individual interviews were priced at $4,200, summarizing the data cost $350/hr for 4-6 hours, the team interaction profile cost $5,000, “design & development” costs were $350/hr for 2-4 hours, the 1-day retreat was $8,500, and the optional feedback cost $450/hr. 

In total, this training cost UC a minimum of $18,850. 

Campus Reform reached out to the colleges and universities mentioned, this article will be updated accordingly.