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Virginia public universities spent over $15 million on DEI administrators in 2020: report

DEI ‘spending is skyrocketing,’ study author said

Diversity, equity and inclusion administrators at Virginia’s public colleges and universities cost an estimated $15 million in 2020 alone, according to a new report by the Virginia Association of Scholars.

The $15 million figure is “the most conservative, minimal estimate possible,” William Knorpp, a study author and VAS president, told The College Fix in an email.  Moreover, the “spending is skyrocketing,” said Knorpp, associate professor of philosophy at James Madison University.

The report, released in January by VAS, an offshoot of the center-right National Association of Scholars think tank, identified DEI as “a set of slogans associated with ‘critical race theory’ (CRT), ‘critical social justice’ (CSJ), and other leftist ideologies.”

“One thread running through CRT and CSJ is that oppression and discrimination are pervasive, and that this oppression explains all measured differences in group outcomes,” the report stated.

Of the 15 colleges and universities surveyed, only two lacked a DEI administrator in 2020 — Virginia State University and the Virginia Military Institute — and the Virginia Military Institute “hired its first Chief Diversity Officer in May 2021,” according to the report.

The remaining colleges and universities spent an average of over $1.15 million on DEI administrators, although individual spending varied considerably across the remaining 13 institutions.

Christopher Newport University spent $110,376 on its one DEI administrator, while the University of Virginia spent more than $4 million on its 38 DEI administrators, the report stated.

Even more, “many DEI offices, centers, and councils are staffed in part or whole by full-time faculty as opposed to administrators,” the report stated.

The report noted faculty taking on DEI responsibilities can apply for a reduction in the number of classes they teach: “These classes either still take place, which requires the hiring of additional faculty, adjuncts, or graduate students to cover the class[es], or they are forgone entirely, at a loss to students.”

“DEI ‘training’ takes resources away from university staff,” according to the report. Staff members must take “time to prepare, time to attend, and time to train, and funds are needed to pay external trainers.”

DEI at James Madison University and the University of Virginia nearly doubled in one year

The report shows a substantial increase in DEI spending between 2020 and 2021 at James Madison University and the University of Virginia. In 2020, these universities spent more than $6.7 million combined on DEI administrators, spending that increased over 1.8 times to more than $12 million combined in 2021.

“Were this pattern to hold for Virginia’s schools overall, DEI administrative salary spending in 2021 would be . . . approximately $27 million” across the 15 Virginia public colleges and universities in the report.

The association relied on the public database GovSalaries for its data set, “which lists the name, title, employer name, and salary for every state employee, including public university employees.”

It counted “only the salaries of only administrators with ‘D[iversity]’ ‘E[quity]’ or ‘I[nclusion]’ explicitly in their job titles,” according to Knorpp. Per the report and Knorpp, this methodology likely undercounts DEI expenditures.

The Jefferson Council and the Spirit of VMI funded the review. Knorpp wrote it with Teresa Manning National Association of Scholars and VAS.and Eric Hammer, an economist.

The Fix reached out on January 18 to the Jefferson Council and the Spirit of VMI. The Jefferson Council declined to comment, and the Spirit of VMI did not respond.

The Fix reached out to two DEI administrators at two universities cited in the report, Catherine Allen-West, director of communications for the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the University of Virginia, and Narketta Sparkman-Key, associate provost for Inclusive Strategies and Equity Initiatives at James Madison University. Neither responded to The Fix’s request for comment.

‘Concrete steps to mitigate the harm’ of DEI

Suggested changes to “mitigate the harm” of DEI-saturated administrations include defunding “ideological centers, programs, and institutions,” and barring required DEI training, DEI general education requirements, hiring and promotion diversity statements, and “racial and sexual preferences in hiring, promotion, and student admission,” according to the report.

Other recommendations include reducing the administrator-to-faculty ratio, providing regular updates on reform progress, and mandating university activity transparency by requiring the public availability of all “faculty and administrator curricula vitae (CVs), all course syllabi, and the organizational charts.”

“Universities should be scrupulously fair and open to everyone. And all ideas should be fodder for discussion,” Knorpp said. “DEI is not a mechanism for promoting fairness, and it is making universities less open and tolerant to non-leftist ideas. It probably can’t be reformed.”

MORE: University of Virginia paid Ibram Kendi $32,500 for one-hour Q&A

IMAGE: Virginia Association of Scholars

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Terrance Kible is a law student at the Thomas R. Kline School of Law at Duquesne University. He hopes to pursue a career in journalism. Terrance also writes for the law blog Legal Insurrection, where he was a 2023 College Fix summer intern. Terrance previously wrote for Campus Reform.