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UMich spends $100K on DEI 2.0 launch: cotton candy cart, hip-hop performance
David Banner and Rapsody


Event included land acknowledgement, discussion of critical race theory and hip-hop

The University of Michigan spent approximately $100,000 on events launching its new diversity, equity, and inclusion “DEI 2.0” plan, including a cotton candy cart, espresso bar, and a lecture on “critical race theory and hip-hop,” according to documents obtained by The College Fix.

The public university hosted the DEI Summit “Truth Telling: The Kinship of Critical Race Theory and Hip-Hop” on Oct. 9 on its Ann Arbor campus. That same day, it also held an open house and celebration to mark the official launch of its DEI 2.0 plan.

The five-year plan “represents the university’s continued commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and builds on the lessons from DEI 1.0,” according to a university report.

In October 2023, The Fix sought remuneration records for the extravaganza. The public institution supplied them last month.

The documents obtained by The Fix through open records requests show the university spent about $100,000 on the single-day events, including a performance by hip-hop artist Rapsody, a cotton candy machine, an espresso cart, and a photo booth.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion are core values at the University of Michigan,” university spokesperson Colleen Mastony told The Fix in an emailed statement Friday, when contacted about the spending.

Mastony said: “The university’s DEI efforts are far-reaching in ways appropriate to the size, scope, and complexity of our university – spanning across 51 units of the university and serving functions that support our over 50,000 students and over 50,000 employees.”

For its one-day DEI celebration, the university spent about $60,000 on the two keynote speakers.

Hip-hop artist, producer, and social activist David Banner (pictured left) received $25,000 for a 10 minute “TED-style remark” followed by participation in a 45-minute moderated roundtable discussion with other panelists about “critical race theory and hip hop,” according to his speaker contract.

Banner’s contract also included a meet-and-greet with student leaders.

Rapsody, or Marianna Evans Rapsody (pictured right), was paid $35,000 to participate in the roundtable discussion and give a musical performance, according to her contract.

Both contracts also include first-class plane tickets for each speaker, coach plane tickets for their traveling companions, and transportation, lodging, and meals for two nights for all four.

Other contracts for the event included catering, audio equipment, decorations, and photography that amounted to about $32,564, the documents show. These included $1,750 for a mobile espresso cart, $395 for a photo booth, and $550 for a cotton candy cart.

Additionally, the university gave a $5,000 honorarium to andré douglas pond cummings, a law professor at University of Arkansas at Little Rock, who spoke at the event, according to the documents.

Students give a breakdance performance at the University of Michigan DEI Summit on Oct. 9, 2023.

Honorariums also went to Kaleb Briscoe, $500; Nina Flores, $500; student DJ, $150; and student drummers, $500 total, according to the documents.

In a May email, the university’s Chief Freedom of Information Officer Patricia Sellinger told The Fix “university staff members Jack Bernard and Elizabeth R. Cole were not paid for their participation over and above their salaries. Antonio Cuyler and hip hop cypher were not paid for their participation.”

Hip hop cypher was a student group that performed an “original hip-hop piece over a beat” during the event.

Other events throughout the day included a breakdance performance, land acknowledgement, and remarks from university leaders including President Santa Ono.

A DEI 2.0 Plan Information Session welcomed community members to participate in “explor[ing] the strategies and initiatives that will be applied during the five-year strategic plan execution” and discuss ”the aspirations of the plan.”

The DEI Summit was a project of the UM Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Michigan Medicine.

Reacting to the findings, Adam Andrzejewski, CEO and founder of OpenTheBooks.com, a watchdog organization that tracks government spending, told The Fix that DEI “values” contradict America’s founding principle of equality.

“Not a single taxpayer dollar should fund or promote DEI at a public university,” Andrzejewski told The Fix in an emailed statement Wednesday. “Equity, meaning equal outcomes where merit is considered racist and judgements are based on skin color, is the opposite of equal opportunity.”

Last fall, the Michigan public university launched a five-year strategic plan to integrate DEI into every aspect of its educational mission, including hiring, bias reporting, and curriculum, The Fix reported at the time.

One part of the plan calls for “de-emphasizing singular Western historical narratives” in its College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

Editor’s note: The story was updated to include comments from the University of Michigan.

MORE: UMich looks to advance DEI in every part of university over next 5 years

IMAGE: UM Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion/Instagram

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About the Author
Micaiah Bilger is an assistant editor at The College Fix.