Ivy League school has little to show for $185 million spent on 'faculty diversity'

A newly released report reveals that Columbia University spent more than $185 million to increase “faculty diversity” but that it has effectively had no impact. 

According to a September 13 report, Columbia University has spent $185 million since 2005 to increase the proportion of racial and ethnic minorities hired as faculty and tenured faculty professors. However, despite the $185 million spent, the proportion of black and Latinx faculty members have largely remained “stagnant” and, in some years, faculty diversity got worse, as 2017 saw a .05 percent drop in black faculty members. 

“We have to be able to make the scholarly case [for diversity] to our departments. But there is no stick. We are an office of carrots,” Dennis Mitchell, vice provost of faculty diversity and inclusion at Columbia University, told the Columbia Spectator

Women faculty are the only demographic that has seen gains since the school started investing in faculty diversity, though the increase cannot necessarily be linked to the investment, as women are now the majority in higher education more broadly.

Campus Reform reached out to Columbia University to ask how exactly the $185 million was spent — and if any of the funds came from taxpayer sources — but the school did not respond despite multiple inquiries. Columbia is a private university but, as one of eight Ivy League schools, it received a cut of the $41 billion in taxpayer funds granted between 2010 and 2015, according to a report from Open the Books.  

Heather Mac Donald, author of the new book The Diversity Delusion told Campus Reform by email that she’s not surprised the $185 million in funding didn’t work, suggesting that the diversity efforts were “founded upon a patent untruth,” since many in academia initially theorized that the “reason for the low numbers of underrepresented minorities in faculty positions was bias against competitively qualified candidates of color.”

“Hiring committees, the thinking went, needed to be encouraged (or pressured) to overcome those biases through the endless generation of ‘diversity metrics’  and the application of ‘implicit bias’ training,”  Mac Donald explained. 

But this was all a delusion, Mac Donald argues.

Hiring committees were already dedicated to diversity efforts —and according to Mac Donald’s research — many already “went out of their way to try to find even remotely qualified minorities that had not already been snapped up by better institutions.”

So, the idea that universities were unilaterally discriminating against minorities hasn’t been born out by any evidence.

Further, Mac Donald suggested that the $185 million should have been used elsewhere.

“Vast sums of money have been diverted to Columbia’s diversity bureaucracy — that could have been better spent on scholarships for gifted students, library acquisitions, or basic research,” Mac Donald explained.

And she urged the Columbia University diversity office to rethink its approach.

“Social justice is not the purpose of a university. Passing on our cultural inheritance and generating new knowledge is. Identity politics should have no role in Columbia’s mission. But if Columbia is determined to pursue social justice, it should disband the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion and all related diversity functions and spend the money on full-time tutors for inner-city children and inner-city Scout troops.”

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