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UConn seeks engineering ‘inclusion’ professor

But a historian warns that DEI often excludes

The University of Connecticut will hire a new engineering professor focused on “inclusion,” following a $3 million donation.

The public university’s “Vergnano Endowed Chair for Inclusion within the College of Engineering” stems from the work of the Vergnano Institute for Inclusion at the college, according to a university news release. The donation came from couple Mark and Betsy Vergnano.

UConn provided few details when asked if the professor would be teaching classes about “diversity, equity, and inclusion” and engineering.

Spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz directed The College Fix via email to a board of trustees’ memo on the new position. It stated the professor should have a “consistent record of demonstrating leadership and fostering excellence towards inclusive instruction, research, and outreach within the College’s academic community.”

“The position supports the institute’s work to facilitate the outreach, recruitment, retention, and overall success of all members of the School of Engineering community,” Reitz told The Fix via email.

The Fix also asked what steps the university would take to ensure its programming does not exclude white students because of their race. The Vergnano Institute’s goal is to provide “underrepresented students with access to scholarships, coaching and mentorship opportunities, training, and other critical career development resources within the School of Engineering.”

A news release also stated the Institute advances UConn program that “serves underrepresented incoming freshmen engineering students – both minorities and women.”

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids universities that receive taxpayer dollars from discriminating against students on the basis of race.

Reitz stated:

UConn does not unlawfully discriminate in any of its education or employment programs and activities on the basis of an individual’s race, color, ethnicity, religious creed, age, sex, marital status, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, genetic information, physical or mental disability (including learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and past or present history of mental illness), veteran’s status, prior conviction of a crime, workplace hazards to the reproductive system, gender identity or expression, or membership in any other protected classes as set forth in state or federal law.

The Vergnanos could not be reached for comment. The Fix reached out to Chemours, where Mark worked as CEO, to ask for comment on the same questions sent to the university. The company deferred to UConn.

MORE: Scholars to study by $365M DEI investment failed to diversify engineering

A Central Connecticut State University professor questioned the benefits of DEI, both at UConn and in general.

“All too often ‘inclusion,’ as it is interpreted by the DEI bureaucracies pervasive on college campuses today, is a euphemism for its antithesis,” historian Jay Bergman told The Fix via email.

He said inclusion on college campuses often means “excluding opinions contrary to the conventional wisdom, and applicants in student admissions and faculty hiring who through no fault of their own…are not of a preferred ethnicity, race, or gender.”

“Not only is this contrary to the spirit of the Supreme Court decision last summer in the Harvard/UNC cases,” he said, referencing the ban on affirmative action, “[i]t is also inherently discriminatory.”

The history professor stated further:

Universities like the University of Connecticut would be better served by…those who run them directing their attention and their financial resources to educating their students rather than indoctrinating them in the latest left-wing campus cult, whether it be the puerile nonsense that America is somehow ‘systemically racist,’ of that Israel, the most democratic country in the Middle East and the most generous in its treatment of its religious minorities, is somehow guilty of ‘settler colonialism.’

UConn is not the only university to incorporate DEI elements into its engineering program.

As previously reported by The Fix, the University of Michigan gave multiple anti-racism research grants in 2022, including for the study of “anti-Blackness” in the engineering field.

The College Fix also reported in 2023 that San Francisco State University appointed an “anti-racist” engineering dean.

MORE: Scholars call for ‘social justice’ in civil engineering courses

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Eleanor Blair is a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville studying Humanities and Catholic Culture.