Universities face a serious dilemma in their quest for diversity and inclusion. Alas, this noble intention has a cost: degrees in Black studies, Women’s Studies, Gender Studies, and similar identity group majors hardly put much bread on the table. To be blunt, the well-intentioned, socially responsible university is guilty of fraud when it tells its socially-minded recruits that a degree in a “gut” major is the pathway to success. The problem is thus finding a field of study that simultaneously helps students earn a degree and offers a genuine economic pay-off.
Here’s the solution: “Diversity Studies,” a major that will provide both the diploma and a well-paid career.
This solution arrived as a Eureka moment when I read how the University of Michigan employed some 93 full-time staff charged with promoting diversity. All had high sounding titles–diversity administrator, directors of diversity, vice-provosts, Deans, investigators, executive assistants, and consultants. More than a quarter of these functionaries earned more than $100,000 plus generous fringe benefits worth about 32.5% of salary. Indeed, salaries at the top here far exceed salaries of well-paid distinguished professors. Robert Sellers, Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion & Chief Diversity Officer, takes home $396,550; David Brown, Michigan’s Associate Dean Office of Health Equity & Inclusion earned some $220,000.
Add dozens of positions that may not receive the big bucks but are nevertheless respectable at a prestigious university where job security is the norm. Nor is it likely that these sinecures will end if courts end affirmative action. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in Grutter v.Bollinger (2003) said that affirmative action should expire in 25 years but hard to imagine these functionaries retiring “mission accomplished.”
Further, add how diversity mania has become ubiquitous and, as the old Soviet Union installed political commissars everywhere, every corner of the campus must now have its very own diversity specialist, so prospects for yet more positions are excellent. Surely, a genuine commitment requires diversity monitors plying their trade far beyond academics and admissions. What about food service (can’t have only “white” meals), student activities, housing, libraries (need diverse books and magazines) and all else that will help minorities feel more at home and thus succeed academically?
The University of Michigan is hardly unique in this hiring frenzy. Heather Mac Donald has documented similar efforts elsewhere while Yale, Columbia and Brown (among others) have pledged tens of millions to upgrade campus diversity at a time when universities often struggle financially (Columbia, has allocated 100 million over the next five years). The University of Florida has recently hired two diversity officers devoted to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Affairs. Multiple websites specialize in diversity-related job postings (see here and here, for example).
Many of these positions are presently unfilled suggesting a bonanza for those who will earn degrees in diversity management. Even better, these campus jobs are just a tiny fraction of the possibilities in the private sector, philanthropy, and governments at all levels. Hard to imagine any field of employment with a greater unmet demand for new hires.
There is more good news. Getting campus-based diversity majors up and running could be done quickly given that the underlying philosophy of diversity—”it is wonderful”– is well known, and this new academic discipline requires no expensive facilities or equipment.
The Diversity Studies curriculum is easy to visualize. Along with the usual distribution requirements, first-year diversity majors would take Diversity Studies 101, Basic Principles of Diversity then move on to Implementing Diversity and perhaps Diversity in a Multicultural/Multiracial Society. Junior and senior seminars might address, say, diversity in government or corporate diversity. Eventually, there might be a Masters or Ph.D. program. A school like Michigan could have a full-fledged Diversity Program, awarding degrees in five years or less.
To be sure, some might see this solution as a nightmare on steroids, universities pumping out hundreds of bean-counting meddlers more interested in skin color and sexual preference than intellectual merit. This imagined plague need not be the case, however, and even if there are more meddlers running about, this approach, on balance, has its advantages.
Most plainly, the availability of so many diversicrat job openings makes it simple to respond to unrealistic demands for “more diversity” understood as skin color, gender and so on. After all, in today’s political climate, trying hard, which in practice means spending lots of money on search committees, is tantamount to accomplishment. If, for example, the campus social justice warriors demand more Latino hires in STEM departments, just create a task force of well-paid diversity experts who just happen to be Latinos to conduct research into hiring Latino scientists.
In an instant, the numbers are made albeit they are not in STEM fields (and these committee members are unlikely to complain that their task may take years and be exceedingly costly). Yes, this ruse might add nothing of academic value but consider the alternative—an expensive recruitment search followed by the hiring of an unqualified candidate. Better to pay diversity experts to scour the planet, no matter how long this takes (and the longer, the better). And keep in mind that no student will be academically harmed, nor will a university department’s reputation be damaged since there will not be any unqualified faculty hired.
But the real benefit of this strategy will be that as the number of diversicrats increases and becomes more heterogeneous, the focus will shift from academic meddling to advancing one’s career in the newly created discipline of “Diversity Studies.” Now, improving one’s academic prospects as a bona fide diversicrat will mean publishing in journals specializing in diversity versus, say, haranguing the Physics Department of its lack of female hires. The game will be one of moving up from Wayne State to the University of Michigan by writing well-regarded, peer-reviewed scholarly articles about diversity, not actually pressuring departments to hire more diverse professors.
Even better, many of the Professors of Diversity will be fully occupied attending lavish conferences to hear the latest research on, for example, on how a black female lesbian should be counted in the university’s diversity mission. Turgid papers will appear on ways to re-name buildings to make students of color more comfortable. Stars in this newly emergent field might discover whole new categories of under-served and historically marginalized populations that need to be added to the list of those “encouraged to apply” for academic positions. Hopefully, savvy merit-oriented administrators will realize that generously rewarding this make-work diversity activity is an excellent tactic to cut down foolish meddling in the serious business of creating a first-rate university.
Finally, as James Madison argued in his Federalist 10, a large department (at least a dozen or more) of diversicrats drawn from multiple backgrounds will be a contentious place as factions argue over the spoils of academe. Rivalries and conspiracies will be endemic. Easy to imagine African American scholars insisting that the core seminars on racial diversity should only be taught by people of color and that Queer whites do not qualify.
Such bickering will surely leave little time for a thorough investigation of why Engineering departments insist on using culturally biased tests when admitting graduate students. Now savvy assistant professors will grasp that the best pathway to tenure and the academic gravy train is publishing about diversity, and while the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion grows, real academic departments no longer dread ill-informed busy-bodies convinced that academic excellence means having a faculty that “looks like America.”