NIH puts in $15.8 million to hire ‘minoritized individuals’
The University of Michigan announced a new initiative to “enhance inclusion and equity across the biomedical and health sciences community,” which includes hiring 30 new professors.
With a $15.8 million investment from the National Institutes of Health and a $63.7 million investment from the University of Michigan, the Michigan Program for Advancing Cultural Transformation will “bolster U-M’s diverse academic environment by hiring tenure-track faculty with a demonstrated commitment to equity and inclusion.”
M-PACT is designed to “address persistent and significant underrepresentation of minoritized individuals and groups,” according to The University Record.
University of Michigan spokesman Rick Fitzgerald declined to answer a College Fix inquiry about how the program would respect academic freedom and if it was only open to racial minorities. He said that the university had “nothing further to add beyond the information in the University Record story.”
University faculty members Robert Sellers and Reshma Jagsi will spearhead M-PACT. Sellers was also the chief diversity officer and vice provost for equity and inclusion. He left the positions in 2021, but the university still lists him under those two titles.
His wife succeeded him in the role, although the 2022 university news release does not mention their relationship and she does not use her married last name. After a user left a comment on the news release mentioning the relationship, the school closed commenting.
Both were contacted twice in the past two weeks by The Fix to answer questions about intellectual diversity and how the program will be implemented, but neither one has responded to requests for comment.
“When we first went for the grant, I was the chief diversity officer at the University, and this was seen as an effort that would also lead us into DEI 2.0,” Sellers told the student newspaper, The Michigan Daily.
“This program will hire and support a large cohort of diverse faculty who will be expertly prepared for success as researchers and DEI change agents within U-M and their fields of study,” Professor Jagsi stated in the Record.
The university found in multiyear campus climate surveys that students felt they were treated less fairly since the initiative began, as previously reported by The Fix.
In a statement provided to the The Fix, the Young Americans for Freedom at the University of Michigan said that it does “not support the idea that DEI is a moral imperative or goal that U of M should strive for, especially not at the cost of academic integrity, and in the medical field, at the cost of quality health care.”
“We are concerned that this program is a poor use of university funds that does not advance proper goals of a public research institution,” the YAF chapter stated. “Not only is it further evidence that U of M would rather sacrifice competence at the altar of ‘diversity,’ it is further evidence that U of M is investing in discrimination in favor of their preferred groups.”
“However, instead of discriminating at the individual level, they are committing to discriminate at the group level by generating candidate pools that fit their desired characteristics,” YAF stated. “Because of this, we are concerned about the future of Michigan’s academic standing and academic integrity.”
The group believes “an appropriate goal for hiring in the biomedical and health sciences field is recruiting faculty members that have demonstrated a commitment to saving patients’ lives.”
The Fix reached out to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, but the group said it “can’t offer a comment on that initiative since it pertains to issues outside of FIRE’s mission.”
The Fix asked what possible free speech problems there could be if faculty applicants must show a commitment to DEI to get hired.
M-PACT is part of the Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation initiative at the NIH, which is designed to “provide funds to recruit diverse cohorts of early-stage research faculty and establish inclusive environments to help those faculty succeed.”
Other institutions awarded grants from the NIH program include the University of Texas El Paso, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Northwestern University, Florida State University and Cornell University.
Editor’s note: The article has been updated to clarify Sellers is no longer the DEI chief and that his wife succeeded him.
IMAGE: Ken Wolter/Shutterstock.com