"Diversity": Weighing the Cost

John Rosenberg

This article is cross-posted from Discriminations.

Last March, in A Twofer: Fight The Deficit, Eliminate Gov’t Discrimination! I quoted Mickey Kaus’s observation that “[t]here is … a whole affirmative action/equal employment compliance bureaucracy that makes at best a secondary contribution to the public good” and continued:

Well, despite being generally quite sensible, Mickey is, after all, still a liberal (though most liberals these days would probably not admit him to their club); otherwise he couldn’t possibly believe that, even “at best,” the government’s enormous affirmative action apparatus makes even “a secondary contribution to the public good.”

But leave aside for now all the actual harm these multiple agencies do, enforcing and re-enforcing the nefarious notion that the government should benefit some Americans and burden others because of their race. Instead, let’s consider only their cost. How much would it save the strapped taxpayers if all the department and agency “civil rights” enforcement bureaus (except the EEOC and the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Dept., about which more in a moment) were shuttered and their employees either let go or transferred to productive work elsewhere?

If I were still an academic I’d “invite” an enterprising graduate student to find out — first by identifying all the agencies like the Education Dept.’s Office of Civil Rights, and then by totaling their budgets.

Mickey endorsed that suggestion here, but so far the accounting still has not been done. Writing in National Review Online yesterday, however, Heather MacDonald has highlighted the large and rising cost of the “diversity” bureaucracy on college campuses, driving up tuition as it drives out common sense. She describes, for example, the University of California at Davis, which

offers the usual menu of diversity effluvia under the auspices of an Associate Executive Vice Chancellor for Campus Community Relations. A flow chart of Linnaean complexity would be needed to accurately map all the activities overseen by the AEVC for CCR. They include a Diversity Trainers Institute, staffed by Davis’s Administrator of Diversity Education; the Director of Faculty Relations and Development in Academic Personnel; the Director of the UC Davis Cross-Cultural Center; the Director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center; an Education Specialist with the UC Davis Sexual Harassment Education Program; an Academic Enrichment Coordinator with the UC Davis Department of Academic Preparation Programs; and the Diversity Program Coordinator and Early Resolution Discrimination Coordinator with the Office of Campus Community Relations. The Diversity Trainers Institute recruits “a cadre of individuals who will serve as diversity trainers/educators,” a function that would seem largely superfluous, given that the Associate Executive Vice Chancellor for Campus Community Relations already offers a Diversity Education Series that grants Understanding Diversity Certificates in “Unpacking Oppression” and Cross-Cultural Competency Certificates in “Understanding Diversity and Social Justice.”

My only cavil with her otherwise excellent article is that she implies that the 2009 base pay of $194,000 of Gibor Basri, Berkeley’s Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion, is excessive — “ nearly four times that of starting assistant professors.” On the contrary, he almost qualifies as a peon slaving in the fields of diversity. Over four years ago, as I pointed out here, the new UVA diversity czar’s salary was $315,000 (see ”Diversity Pays” update at end of post).

Now comes W. Lee Hansen, a retired professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who presents an alarming picture of the costs of “diversity” at that institution, a cost that he estimates is $40 million (compared to the “officially reported” cost of $25 million).

If all 42,000 UW-Madison students are assumed to share equally in the benefits of these programs, the annual resource cost of producing these benefits is almost $1,000 per student.

If by contrast all benefits from these programs accrue to the 2,100 undergraduate targeted minority students (African-Americans, American Indians and Hispanics), the annual resource cost is roughly $20,000 per targeted minority student. Even if these benefits go to all 5,100 targeted minority students (including graduate and professional students) the resource cost approximates $8,000 per minority student.

Another perspective emerges when annual Minority and Disadvantaged resource costs are cumulated over the ten-year life of Plan 2008. The total resource cost of the Minority and Disadvantaged program component of Plan 2008, expressed in constant 2009 dollars, is estimated at $270 million, slightly more than a quarter billion dollars.

Adding the resource costs from 2008-09 and 2009-2010 would push this total to approximately $360 million, more than a third of a billion dollars.

Hansen concludes with two good questions and a telling “larger question”:

These two perspectives raise questions about the benefits of UW-Madison’s Minority and disadvantaged programs. First, what benefits did these programs produce and how were these benefits distributed among targeted minority students and the rest of the student body?

Second, how do the benefits from these programs contrast with the resource costs devoted to them? Are the benefits sufficiently large to warrant the current allocation of resources to these programs?

The larger question is this. Why are campus officials, faculty, students and the general public in such a poor position to decide whether to devote more or fewer resources to Minority and Disadvantaged programs? The answer is simple. Little or nothing is known about the effectiveness of these programs because few if any of them have been rigorously evaluated.

Outright reparations might be cheaper, in fact much cheaper, than our current “diversity” ransoms.

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