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Goal of higher education is threatened by increasingly powerful diversity bureaucracies: op-ed

A recent op-ed in City Journal compares campus diversity officers to termites, with the author declaring: “Diversity apparatchiks have taken root on most college campuses, and in many cases expanded into sprawling bureaucracies with multimillion-dollar budgets.”

Mark Pulliam, an attorney and member of the Federalist Society, writes that these bureaucrats cultivate “the imaginary grievances of an ever-growing number of ‘oppressed’ groups” in order to fulfill a “continual quest for aggrandizement.”

He points to the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education as a “rent-seeking trade association” that charges $1,250 per year for membership to provide “annual conferences, self-serving ‘standards for professional practice,’ a political agenda” and publication in a “pseudo-scholarly” Journal of Diversity in Higher Education.

This represents the latest obsession in higher education, according to Pulliam: the push for diversity. These efforts are “an article of faith that ‘diversity,’ originally a euphemism for affirmative action, somehow enhances the educational environment, but data supporting the mismatch theory—which holds that affirmative action hurts minority students by placing them in academic programs for which they are unqualified—refute this claim.”

He writes that the amount of resources invested in diversity resources is “staggering:”

The sheer size of the diversity landscape is staggering. The University of Michigan’s diversity bureaucracy employs nearly 100 full-time employees, one earning more than $300,000 per year, at an annual cost of more than $11 million. More than a quarter of UM’s diversocrats make more than $100,000 a year, far more than the average salary of assistant professors with doctorates. UM is not exceptional. The University of Texas at Austin employs a similar number of bureaucrats in its Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (boasting eight vice presidents), at an annual cost of $9.5 million. The head of UT’s diversity bureaucracy makes over $265,000 a year, more than most tenured faculty.

The Economist reports that UC Berkeley has 175 diversity bureaucrats, and nationwide, the trend is toward increased spending in this area. According toThe Economist, “Bureaucrats outnumber faculty 2:1 at public universities and 2.5:1 at private colleges, double the ratio in the 1970s.” Over the same period, tuition has soared. Ohio State’s Richard Vedder estimates that more than 900,000 nonteaching administrators—most of them unnecessary—bloat university payrolls.

Pulliam also criticizes diversity officers for political activism, which is predominantly in support of progressive causes. “NADOHE has issued press releases or filed ‘friend of the court’ briefs in favor of same-sex marriage and racial preferences in college admissions, and opposing President Trump’s so-called travel ban order. Each new victim group increases the clientele,” he writes.

For Pulliam, the issue comes down to the fact that the mission of diversity officers is self-perpetuating:

Affirmative action (i.e., racial and ethnic preferences in admissions) leads to grievance studies. Increased recognition of LGBT rights requires ever-greater accommodation by the rest of the student body. Protecting “vulnerable” groups from “hate speech” and “microaggressions” requires speech codes and bias-response teams (staffed by diversocrats). Complaints must be investigated and adjudicated (by diversocrats). Fighting “toxic masculinity” and combating an imaginary epidemic of campus sexual assault necessitate consent protocols, training, and hearing procedures—more work for an always-growing diversocrat cadre. Each newly recognized problem leads to a call for more programs and staffing.

Read the full piece.

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