Higher Education

Study finds ‘diversity’ bloat at OU, OSU

August 5, 2021

Kaitlyn Finley

Diversity pays. In fact it pays quite well in Oklahoma.

The diversity czars at the state's two comprehensive universities—those in charge of ensuring that the institutions are properly promoting social justice, racial diversity, and equity—each make more than $200,000 a year.

Oklahoma is no exception to the nationwide trend of bloating university budgets with departments, offices, and programs whose sole purpose is to address concerns about these so-called DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) issues. And no, those terms don’t necessarily mean what you think they mean.

For example, the University of Oklahoma has an Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, while the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma houses the Dr. Ada Lois Sipuel Center for Social Justice and Racial Healing.

Heritage Foundation researchers Jay P. Greene and James D. Paul have quantified how many DEI staff major universities employ relative to other university staff and faculty positions. Greene is a senior research fellow for Heritage, with an emphasis on education. Paul is a distinguished doctoral fellow at the University of Arkansas' Department of Education Reform.

Greene and Paul actually counted the number of staff members at 65 major universities who have formal titles linked to DEI responsibilities. (It’s a conservative count, the researchers say, and is in fact “an undercount of the true extent of DEI activities at universities.”)

They further analyzed the ratio of DEI staff positions to the number of history faculty and personnel dealing with the accommodation of students with disabilities as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The researchers found that most of the universities studied employ more DEI staff members than history professors and ADA personnel. At OU, they found that for every one ADA staff member, there are 4.4 DEI personnel. The number gives OU the 24th highest ratio among the 65 universities studied. OU has 35 DEI staffers. The national average is 45.1.

Oklahoma State University had the 23rd highest ratio for DEI-staff-to-history faculty. OSU has 26 DEI dedicated personnel, compared to 17 history professors. Unless entering OSU with prior class credits, all OSU undergraduate students are required to complete an American History and Government course.

In recent years, OU and OSU have dedicated significant resources for executive “diversity” positions. The OU diversity czar is paid $230,000 annually in salary alone, while a similar position at OSU pays $200,299.

Greene and Paul also examined “diversity climate surveys” administered to students to “collect information on their perceptions of campus climate.” The researchers found that schools with large DEI staff numbers fared no better on the surveys than those with smaller numbers of DEI staffers.

The University of Michigan and the University of North Carolina had some of the highest number of DEI staff in many metrics examined, but their diversity climate survey scores fared the same—or worse—in some categories as compared to Mississippi State and Baylor University, both of which have some of the smallest diversity staffs.

“In general, student reports on campus climate are no better—and often worse, especially for minority students—at universities with larger DEI staff levels,” Greene and Paul noted.

The researchers don't push for the elimination of DEI programs, but they do recommend universities create better metrics to measure the effects and outcomes of diversity staff and DEI programs on campus.

In order to foster a “community of care,” students at OU may utilize the school’s “bias” hotline to report incidents to a “Campus Climate Incident Response Team.” According to the university's website, the team is “here to assist you in the event that you experience an incident of bias on campus.” The team is composed of 8 administrative staff and faculty members.

Is this hotline an effective use of tax dollars to create a more diverse and inclusive campus? Taxpayers may never know: The university has repeatedly rejected OCPA's open records request for information on incidents reported to the hotline, even though the request did not seek to identify those who reported the incidents.

Before more resources are spent on hiring additional personnel and creating more DEI programs, Oklahoma taxpayers, the Legislature, and boards of regents should better examine the actual return on investment of DEI efforts on Oklahoma campuses.