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Report: U-M’s 163 Diversity Officers The Most Among Big US Universities

2.3 for every history instructor; ‘more focused on promoting narrow and divisive political agendas’

A recent report by The Heritage Foundation found that the University of Michigan has the largest diversity, equity, and inclusion staff of the 65 American universities examined, beating out progressive bastions like the University of California-Berkeley and UCLA.

While the average university now has 45.1 people dedicated to promoting diversity on campus, the University of Michigan has 163. According to the report, Michigan employs 2.3 DEI officers for every one member of its history faculty. It also has a 15:1 ratio of DEI personnel to Americans with Disabilities Act compliance personnel.

The report indicated that 19 of Michigan’s DEI staff members work in a central office for DEI, led the “vice provost for equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer.”

According to the report, the rest of the DEI personnel work for other areas such as the Multicultural Center, the Center for the Education of Women, the LGBTQ Spectrum Center, the Office of Multi-ethnic Student Affairs and the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives.

U-M spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said it would “not be accurate to assume all 163 of those identified by the authors as doing DEI work full time,” but he applauded the university’s emphasis on diversity.

“We believe that everyone should have an equitable opportunity to succeed and contribute to the greater society,” Fitzgerald said. “We recognize that one cannot achieve those goals without intentional efforts to incorporate those principles within all of our operations as an institution. That commitment means that we must employ a team doing this work full time, with many others in units all across the institution who do this work in addition to their primary work duties as digital strategists, communicators, finance administrators, associate deans and scores of other roles.”

Yet the University of Michigan’s expansive DEI offices and centers do not seem to register on campus satisfaction polls. According to a recent survey, 72% of University of Michigan students report being satisfied or very satisfied with the campus climate. Among minority undergraduate students, that number drops to 62%. Mississippi State University, which has a significantly smaller DEI infrastructure, found that 72% of its students felt accepted, respected, and appreciated by students different from them. Among African American students, 68% reported feeling this way, which is not far off from the overall result. Among Hispanic students the figure is 78%.

Jay Greene, a senior research fellow at Heritage and co-author of the report, said that while universities should aspire to be inclusive and welcoming to all, he expressed some concerns about their work.

“There is nothing wrong with these ostensible goals of DEI efforts; the problem is with how these efforts are conducted in practice and how large DEI staff is relative to other staffing priorities of universities,” he said. “It appears that DEI staff are often more focused on promoting narrow and divisive political agendas than on welcoming students from many backgrounds.”

While local school boards have become a flashpoint for parents alarmed by certain ideologies, such as critical race theory, citizens are also beginning to take a closer look at the seedbed of these ideas: academia.

“While DEI has long been pursued in this divisive way in higher education, the more aggressive efforts to restrict student and faculty speech to enforce a DEI-promoted orthodoxy is leading to resistance in higher education as well,” Greene said.

Greene says that in higher education, these ideas are deeply embedded, and taxpayers and legislators who seek to have an influence there face bureaucratic obstacles. Still, public universities like Michigan must be held accountable, he argues.

“Legislators, boards of trustees, tuition-paying parents, donors, and other stakeholders can demand that universities produce evidence that their enormous devotion of resources to hiring DEI staff have been effective,” Greene said. “Absent that evidence, these stakeholders should demand that universities shrink these efforts and redirect resources toward other university priorities, like teaching history and serving students with disabilities. Congress should also closely examine the ways in which it subsidizes higher education and consider whether those subsides promote wasteful and counter-productive DEI staff-hiring binges.”

DEI staff came under fire from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas at a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week. In a discussion of college costs, Cruz said there is a massive overhead siphoning off of funding at schools like Michigan, noting the university’s 163-member DEI department.

“Our universities don’t teach anymore,” Cruz said. “They are instead paid sinecures for people who go and work for the government.”

While legislators can draw attention to administrative bloat and could use their budget authority to contain it, Greene says college students can also push back .

“The first thing students should do at universities with large and powerful DEI staff is to refuse to allow those staff to enforce a narrow ideological orthodoxy on them,” Greene said. “Students and faculty need to stand up and protect their rights to free academic inquiry in higher education.”

He says that it’s often a small but noisy group of students who push for more DEI staff and power. If university leaders fail to realize that these students don’t represent the broader student body, he says, they assume the politically expedient response is to concede to demands for more DEI personnel.

“University leaders have to believe that they may face heat from students, parents, and legislators if they cater to small but noisy groups of students,” Greene said.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.