CounterCurrent: Week of 1/30
In the past few years, citizens in several states have published reports on spending by public colleges and universities for so-called “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) administration—most notably, those in Maine, Idaho, Tennessee, and North Carolina. This month, two more such reports were issued: one for the University of Texas at Austin, published by the National Association of Scholars (NAS), and another for Virginia, published by the Virginia affiliate of NAS, the Virginia Association of Scholars (VAS).
The VAS report documents spending on DEI personnel, listing titles and salaries for both low- and high-level administrators at fifteen of Virginia's state schools. This is a greater level of detail than most of the prior reports, and the findings are shocking: In 2020, Virginia state schools spent over $15 million dollars on DEI administration. And, as the report makes clear, this is the lower bound of expenditures, since the report counts only salaries, excluding hidden costs such as overhead, benefits packages, and the time and attention required of other staff and faculty for DEI meetings, trainings, and miscellaneous events, including student orientations.
What's more, these figures are from 2020. Since that time, all the schools surveyed pledged to increase their DEI spending. Indeed, the two schools which had numbers available for 2021—the University of Virginia (UVA) and James Madison University (JMU)—almost doubled their DEI spending in that one-year time span. JMU spent $2,566,326 for 33 DEI administrators in 2020, but $5,302,266 for 65 of them in 2021; UVA spent $4,149,732 for 38 DEI administrators in 2020, but $6,924,279 for 77 of them in 2021.
One can safely assume, then, that the report's numbers are already a dramatic undercount, which makes the findings that much more sobering. The Virginia General Assembly has already taken note; one new bill introduced this legislative session, HB 1800, wants more transparency for these expenditures and more frequent reports to the legislature about the rate of increase.
The report reminds readers that money spent on DEI is always money not spent on real educational needs, such as books, computers, laboratories, professors, instructors, and student scholarships. The report estimates that the $15 million spent on DEI in 2020 could have funded 150 full-time professors or 1,100 full-tuition scholarships for students.
Much could be said about this trend—a trend not limited to Virginia, of course, as the other reports show, but one that is national in scope—but it's always best to start with the basics.
First, despite the pleasant sound of the DEI slogan (who could oppose "equity"?) it is actually a Trojan Horse—a destructive ideology that pits Americans against one another, primarily based on race and sex.
Worse, DEI and its spin-off movements like Critical Race Theory (CRT) are also euphemisms for resentment. They divide Americans by race- or sex-based groups and then brand these groups as "oppressors" (bad) or "oppressed" (good), with benefits given or denied based on this status. In the fall of 2021, for example, student orientation leaders at James Madison University were told that “oppressor” groups (bad) included Christians, whites, males, Western Europeans and ... Americans!
DEI not only ignores far worse racial unrest in other areas of the world but also completely disregards the role of the individual—individual character, individual talent, and individual industry—that is so central to the American way. America is the land of opportunity for individuals, not cherry-picked groups. This American tradition makes the United States the country where many of the world's poor and persecuted wish to live.
In sum, DEI is a crude, un-American tribalism.
Second, while DEI is bad enough, its effects are even worse, since it displaces real education for American students. Every reliable survey shows that American college graduates are increasingly ignorant (some surveys show they lose knowledge during college!) as well as increasingly incompetent in skills expected in higher education such as reading comprehension, advanced mathematics, and analytical and persuasive writing. American college graduates know little about American history and civics, and even less about world history, geography, or basic finance.
This last item is not just academic. As most have heard, the Biden administration, along with Democrat politicians, have proposed tapping American taxpayers to bail out college graduates who cannot repay their student loans. NAS has consistently said that colleges and universities are the real villains in this controversy since they get all the money but none of the debt. NAS advocates that schools have "skin in the game" of college finance—that is, that they be liable for a large portion of the student loan dollars they receive.
But the point is that American students do not even understand the loans they assume—and now others are being asked to bail them out.
In truth, both American students and American taxpayers are paying more and more for college and getting less and less education, as schools hire more and more DEI ideologues. The result? Not only taxpayers left holding the bag but graduates who are ignorant, resentful debt slaves instead of virtuous, patriotic young Americans.
This cannot continue.
Congratulations to the authors of these reports. Let's hope state officials around the country, not just in Virginia, take note and do something to stop the insanity of throwing good money at bad programs.
CounterCurrent is the National Association of Scholars’ weekly newsletter, written by the NAS Staff. To subscribe, update your email preferences here.