Maintaining diversity departments at Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi are hitting taxpayers in the wallet.
According to records obtained by the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, the University of Mississippi spent $1,249,868 of its 2018-2019 budget on diversity related operations, which include the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement and the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement.
Mississippi State University spent $803,756 on diversity-related activities that include the Institutional Diversity and Inclusion Division and the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center.
As a percentage of their total budgets ($681 million for Ole Miss and $364 million for Mississippi State), Ole Miss and Mississippi State are both outspending the University of Michigan on diversity-related activities. Michigan was the flashpoint for two landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases involving race-based admissions policies.
The Ann Arbor-based school has a budget of more than $3 billion and spent more than $2 million on its diversity agenda with 12 employees. In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Michigan ballot initiative that prevented race-based admissions at the state’s institutions of higher education with a 6-2 decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action.
The ballot initiative was in response to the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Grutter v. Bollinger, that upheld affirmative action admission policies at Michigan and other universities.
The University of Alabama has six full-time employees dedicated solely to two diversity-related organizations, the Diversity Equity and Inclusion office and the Women and Gender Resource Center. The Tuscaloosa-based institution had a budget of $2.14 billion in 2017.
Louisiana State University has nine full-time employees whose role is dedicated to diversity-related issues. LSU had a budget of $1.018 billion in 2018.
Ole Miss spent 95.8 percent of its diversity-related budget ($1,249,868) on personnel-related costs. That adds up to $1,197,080 in 2018-19 for eight full-time employees with more budgeted for part-time student workers.
That figure could also increase with four unfilled positions, two of which (assistant vice chancellors for diversity and community engagement) pay $120,000 apiece per year.
What are the objectives of the various diversity departments on college campuses?
Former Ole Miss Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter called diversity “a hallmark of education” and said that it “enriches the environment and experiences of all our campus constituents.”
In the diversity plan at Ole Miss, the university wants to increase the enrollment and graduation rate of minorities, hire more minorities in administrative, faculty and staff positions, change the curriculum to one that “enhances multicultural awareness and understanding,” and increase the use of minority vendors by the university.
Mississippi State has 11 full-time employees and more money budgeted for part-time student workers whose job descriptions are based on increasing campus diversity. Personnel-related costs absorb 82.2 percent of the diversity program’s budget at State.
MSU’s diversity plan is similar, with goals to increase diversity in both enrollment and among administration, faculty and staff along with providing more contracts to minority vendors.
Diversity is a lucrative career, especially at Ole Miss. The university pays Katrina Caldwell, the Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Community Engagement, $205,000 per year. She received a $5,000 raise in 2018 after being hired from Northern Illinois University.
According to her bio on the university website, Caldwell’s duties include “leadership and coordination of UM’s efforts to create and supervise a diverse, inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of the community.”
Are taxpayers seeing a benefit for this spending? Not according to a paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research that shows that having a diversity staff doesn’t translate to an increase in the hiring of “underserved” racial and minority groups.
The paper, authored by Baylor University economists Steven Bradley, James Garven, Wilson Law and James West, took a look at data from U.S. universities from 2001 to 2016 that hired an executive level chief diversity officer and whether the diversity of their faculty and administrative hires increased as a result.
The four didn’t find any significant evidence that hiring a diversity officer results in more hiring of minority faculties and administrators and that the pool of diverse Ph.D. candidates is limited as many often accept employment outside the academy.
According to their research, two thirds of all U.S. universities have a chief diversity officer on staff.