The DEI Trilogy

James Paul and I have released a series of three studies from the Heritage Foundation documenting how extensive and dangerous Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts in education are. As I’ve written on this blog before, DEI sounds like it should be a good thing given that we truly value diversity and inclusion (equity is a different story), “but like many bad enterprises, DEI takes a bunch of good words and in Orwellian fashion uses them to advance the very opposite of what those words mean.”

The first report in our trilogy, “Diversity University: DEI Bloat in the Academy,” shows how large diversity staffs are at the 65 universities in the “Power 5” athletic conferences. The average institution has about 45 people devoted to promoting the social and political agenda associated with DEI. Keep in mind that our study did not count any of the staff devoted to ensuring compliance with non-discrimination laws nor did it count any of the faculty or staff in ethnic or gender studies departments. The compliance staff may be necessary to avoid legal problems and the ethnic/gender studies departmental staff are presumably engaged in the traditional academic enterprise of teaching and conducting research. The DEI staff we counted are neither legally necessary nor engaged in core academic activities. They are activists employed by universities to promote a particular, and as we demonstrate, noxious political agenda.

That report also showed that students report campus climates that are no better and often worse at universities with larger DEI staff relative to those with few DEI personnel. James and I had a piece in the Detroit News highlighting the situation at the University Michigan, which has 163 DEI staff — the biggest among the 65 universities we examined. I had a piece in the Daily Signal discussing how the growth in DEI staff was contributing to administrative bloat and rising costs in higher education. And James and I published another op-ed featuring how large DEI staff are at the University of Virginia (94 DEI staff) and Virginia Tech (83 DEI staff). People interested in looking up any of the 65 universities to see how many DEI personnel there are and how that staff level compares to the number of history professors or staff devoted to providing services to disabled students can use this really cool data visualization that the folks at Heritage designed.

The second report in our trilogy, “Equity Elementary: ‘Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’ Staff in Public Schools,” measured how far the DEI staffing and political strategy had made its way into K-12 education. We found that among larger districts with more than 100,000 students, 79% had a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO). This is not quite as universal as in higher education, but it is getting close. Among all public school districts with at least 15,000 students, 39% had a CDO. We also looked at the relationship between having a CDO and gaps in standardized test results between black and white, Hispanic and white, and poor and non-poor students. Districts hire CDOs claiming that it is necessary to help close achievement gaps, but we find that those gaps are larger and growing larger over time in districts that have a CDO relative to districts that don’t. This holds true even after we control statistically for the size and demographic characteristics of the districts. It appears that CDOs are likely counter-productive in accomplishing their stated purpose of closing achievement gaps. Instead, we suspect they are focused on their real purpose of advancing a noxious social and political agenda.

I was invited onto Fox News to discuss the Equity Elementary study. We mostly talked about Critical Race Theory and how I thought it could lead to a parent backlash, resulting in a Youngkin upset in the VA gubernatorial election. Turns out I was right about that. But I was also able to mention how CDOs are educationally counter-prodctive in K-12 public schools and instead are working to advance CRT and other radical political efforts. Kyle Smith also had an excellent column in the NY Post describing our Equity Elementary study in some detail. And Heritage made another really cool data visualizion that allows people to look up any of the 554 school districts we examined to see if they have a CDO and how large their achievement gaps are.

The third and most recent installment in our DEI trilogy is “Inclusion Delusion: The Antisemitism of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Staff at Universities,” which was released last week. It reports on the contents of university DEI staff’s Twitter feeds with regard to Israel and, for comparison purposes, China. We examined the tweets, retweets, and likes of 741 DEI staff at the same 65 universities studied in the Diversity University report. We found that university DEI staff pay almost three times as much attention to Israel as to China, and are almost always critical of Israel while mostly favorable toward China. Even more shocking than the fact that 96% of their Twitter communications regarding Israel were critical while 62% about China were favorable, is the intemperate language and tone of those tweets. We provide numerous examples in the report and they clearly demonstrate that these DEI staff cross the line from reasonable criticism of Israel into outright antisemitism. Keep in mind that the same university DEI staff hired to prevent hate and bias and to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students are doing the opposite of that, at least with respect to Jews.

So, we have published Diversity University, Equity Elementary, and Inclusion Delusion — DEI — in that order over the last several months. I love the Heritage Foundation for giving me the opportunity to produce this kind of work and contribute factual information to the debate over how our educational system should approach Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

You might think that since this is a trilogy and since we have managed to use Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the titles that we are now finished with this effort. But like Star Wars, Foundation, Riverworld, and other famous efforts that began as trilogies I strongly suspect that our work is not done here. I hope we don’t have to create the DEI-verse or pursue multiple timelines, but we will continue to examine DEI in education as long as is necessary to prevent a radical agenda from being foisted onto kids.

3 Responses to The DEI Trilogy

  1. Greg Forster says:

    If the DEIverse gets too complex to handle, you can always resolve it with Crisis on Infinite Equity!

    Managing the transition from the old, white-dominated social order to a truly inclusive society is a moonshot-level challenge, and it should be all hands on deck to make it happen. But instituting a formal DEI bureaucracy with an effectively limitless mandate, no definable measurements of success and what WFB once called “terminological right of way” (because of what they’re called, no one can safely question anything they do) is a recipe for disaster. And the first casualty will be real efforts at real inclusion, which will be tarnished by association – fairly or unfairly – with the DEI racket.

    Thanks for shining a light on the problem! Here’s hoping for a swift return to the liberal aspiration to real diversity, inclusion and (in the original sense of the term) equity.

  2. Mike G says:

    Jay, off topic but just wanted to say – great essay on “Civic Education we need.”

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