Analysis

Diversity Programs Big Business at U-M

University pays $11 million to 93 diversity program administrators

The University of Michigan employs a large staff of bureaucrats who work within an extensive network of programs intended to improve diversity at the institution. The administrators and programs, funded largely through taxpayer dollars and student tuition, cost millions of dollars a year, yet it’s unclear if the financial investment in diversity has been successful.

The Ann Arbor campus alone employs 76 diversity administrators who make $10.6 million in salaries and benefits in 2018-19, according to University of Michigan-Flint economics professor Mark Perry. Last year, the university system (including campuses in Flint and Dearborn) employed 93 diversity-related administrators who cost the university $11 million in total compensation.

Perry found no record of diversity-related administrators before 2004. In that year, 15 employees were housed in the Human Resources Institutional Equity office. The number of diversity staffers has more than tripled in the past five years, from 23 in 2013 to 76 in 2018 for the Ann Arbor campus, Perry found.

Robert Sellers, who oversees diversity programs the chief diversity officer and vice provost for equity and inclusion, collects an annual salary of $407,653. Sellers received a raise of $11,100 last year, Michigan Capitol Confidential previously reported.

In 2016, the university announced a five-year, $85 million diversity initiative, a plan that Sellers oversees. At the time the initiative was announced, the university was already spending $40 million a year to promote diversity.

The plan, which involves 49 units across the university, says the university is committed to “increasing diversity, which is expressed in myriad forms, including race and ethnicity, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, language, culture, national origins, religious commitments, age, disability status and political perspective.”

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald pointed to the university’s diversity website when asked about the institution’s progress.

A progress report for the initiative published in October said, “Our campus community is moving ahead on many fronts and is successfully implementing scores of initiatives aimed at building a truly diverse, equitable and welcoming campus.”

The progress report also touted the scheduled completion of the Trotter Multicultural Center, which cost an estimated $10 million to build.

In addition, the progress report cited Wolverine Pathways, a pipeline program for the Southfield, Ypsilanti, and Detroit school districts. It provides students who complete the program full tuition, and it graduated 88 scholars in 2018.

The university also cited the “Go Blue Guarantee” as a program which has improved the diversity of the student body by enrolling more students from low-income backgrounds. It covers tuition for in-state students who come from families earning less than $65,000 annually and having assets of less than $50,000.

“U-M also saw a 24 percent increase in admissions applications from some of the state’s lowest-income students in the first year since implementing the guarantee, contributing to a nearly 6 percent increase in freshmen enrollment from those with incomes of $65,000 or less,” said an October 2018 article in The University Record, U-M’s public affairs magazine.

While the progress report pointed to numerous anecdotal accomplishments, there’s little evidence the university’s investment in the initiative or the addition of diversity administrators has increased the racial diversity of the student population or faculty.

Between 2013 and 2017, the percentage of faculty who are minorities dropped, according to university records. A recent Detroit News editorial pointed out that only 5 percent of the student body is black, and 6 percent is Hispanic.

A National Bureau of Economic Research study by Baylor University researchers indicated that employing a chief diversity officer does not increase diversity in faculty.

“We are unable to find significant statistical evidence that preexisting growth in diversity for underrepresented racial/ethnic minority groups is affected by the hiring of an executive level diversity officer for new tenure and non-tenure track hires, faculty hired with tenure, or for university administrator hires,” the study said.

The growth of diversity administrators comes at a time when the number of non-faculty administrators has grown significantly at universities across the country.

Richard Vedder, an economics professor at Ohio University and a Mackinac Center scholar, estimated in 2017 that university administrators outnumbered faculty across the country.

“There are more ‘administrators’ broadly defined, than faculty at most American universities. For the year 2015, I added up the number of full-time employees in ‘management,’ ‘business and financial operations,’ ‘office and administrative support,’ and ‘student and academic affairs’ and compared that with the total number of faculty. There were 911,428 in the administrative category, far more than the 807,032 faculty (some not teaching),” Vedder wrote on the website Minding the Campus.

A George Mason University study titled “The Changing of the Guard: The Political Economy of Administrative Bloat in American Higher” said universities have largely focused on hiring administrators rather than faculty.

“Something has happened to the structure of higher education in American universities. Universities have increased spending, but very little of that increased spending has been related to classroom instruction; rather, it is being directed toward non-classroom costs,” the study said. “As a result, there has been a growth in academic bureaucracies, as universities focus on hiring employees to manage or administer people, programs, and regulations. Between 2001 and 2011, these sorts of hires have increased 50 percent faster than the number of classroom instructors. This trend toward growing academic bureaucracies has become ubiquitous in the landscape of American higher education.”

Heather Mac Donald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of “The Diversity Delusion,” called the growth of diversity administrators “a self-perpetuating bureaucracy.”

“The bureaucracy has taken over the universities’ student services more broadly, competing with faculty resources, driving up student tuition. It’s a remarkable expansion that serves no purpose whatsoever,” she told Michigan Capitol Confidential.

University boards and leaders, particularly those at the University of Michigan, have been put in a tough position over the past several decades. Students frequently demand more racial diversity on campus, but in Michigan, school officials are legally restrained in the actions they can take toward that end.

In 2006, voters passed Prop 2, the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which effectively banned universities in the state from using affirmative action in admissions. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the initiative in 2014.

The Michigan State Constitution says, “The University of Michigan ... and any other public college or university, community college, or school district shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”

U-M officials have had to find other ways besides affirmative action to increase diversity, such as through the diversity initiative.

In an email, Perry questioned whether the growth of diversity staffers is meant to circumvent laws banning affirmative action.

“So maybe universities have expanded diversity staffs to figure out how to circumvent state and federal laws that prohibit sex discrimination and racial discrimination?” he asked.

U-M students have a long history of pressuring university leaders to increase diversity, despite the state ban on affirmative action in public institutions.

In 2014, members of U-M’s Black Student Union publicly issued a list of seven demands for university administrators to address diversity on campus. The demands included a new Trotter Multicultural Center (which is scheduled to be completed) and raising black enrollment to 10 percent. The group gave the administration seven days to act and threatened to “take physical actions” if the demands weren’t met.

The group cited as its inspiration the Black Action Movement, which in 1970 briefly shut down the university, according to MLive.

In 2017, another student group demanded increased minority enrollment after racist emails were sent to engineering students, according to The Michigan Review.

Sellers, as a U-M graduate student in 1987, was part of the United Coalition Against Racism, a progressive group which called for an increase in black student enrollment.

Angela Dillard, an associate dean, in 2016 tweeted a photo of a document about UCAR, which included a picture of Sellers. Dillard said in her tweet, “Rob Sellers 1st @UMich Chief Diversity Officer was member #UCAR BAMIII protesting #Umich admin then to create his job now @UMichDiversity.”

Sellers’ group also successfully lobbied for a race-and-ethnicity curriculum requirement in U-M’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, which was eventually added in 1990.

Mac Donald said student groups and diversity administrators feed off each other.

“There’s a co-dependency between student groups that are told constantly by the diversity bureaucracy that they’re victims, and the bureaucracy, every time the students stage some sort of hysterical protest claiming they’re at risk of their lives on a college campus, they’ve learned to ask for more diversity bureaucrats,” she said. “The diversity bureaucrats then go and offer courses in white privilege and toxic masculinity to keep going this ridiculous conceit that colleges discriminate against minorities when the opposite is the case; they are affirmatively discriminating in favor of minorities and against white males.”

“Adding more bureaucrats doesn’t change the underlying problem,” Mac Donald said.