Don’t look now, but the Peach State may soon join Florida and Texas in eliminating the curse of diversity, equity, and inclusion from colleges and universities.
The chancellor of Georgia’s public universities, Sonny Perdue, is locked in a battle with state lawmakers after the state Senate cut $66 million from the higher education system’s fiscal 2024 budget. But Lt. Gov. Burt Jones has offered him a way out: Figure out what you’re spending on DEI, and get back to us.
Perdue, chancellor of the University System of Georgia, with its 26 colleges and universities, should pay heed and catalog how many university officials are pushing DEI in Georgia. The obvious next step would be to eliminate this wasteful and damaging endeavor.
We’ve done the math at the Heritage Foundation, and we can tell Perdue that it’s quite a lot. Rather than raise tuition for Georgia’s students, as the system’s Board of Regents may have to do because of the budget cut, he could simply eliminate these costly positions.
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DEI personnel add up to an unnecessary financial cost, but the damage they inflict doesn’t stop there. These positions amount to something that is profoundly un-American: political commissars policing speech and actions by students and staff, enforcing a rigid leftist ideology on entire campuses.
One of the many well-known recent cases of speech suppression took place at Stanford University Law School on March 9, with the head of DEI playing a leading role in preventing a conservative judge from speaking.
Tirien Steinbach, associate dean for DEI at Stanford Law School, told 5th Circuit Judge Kyle Duncan, who had been invited by the Federalist Society to speak on campus, that his presence was painful for students. She is now on leave from the university.
Jones mentioned the Stanford case in a letter he wrote to Perdue on April 25, saying, “A series of recent disturbing events, including a public event at Stanford University … have drawn new attention to the role of DEI programs and personnel on college campuses."
“These programs are particularly concerning when taxpayer funds are used to enforce the type of intellectual and political conformity that appears to be the hallmark of many campus DEI initiatives,” Jones added. “In my view, rather than promoting the mission of public education, when used in this way, such programs inhibit the ability of colleges and universities to promote academic and intellectual freedom in both their courses and community events.”
Jones then requested the following information: the name of any DEI or related program in the Georgia system, a description of the programs, the number of staff members in them, their job titles, job descriptions, and salaries, additional funds spent on the programs, the total amount, the portion that comes from state funding, and the aggregate amount spent on these programs for the past seven fiscal years.
Jones gave Perdue until June 30 to respond, his office told me via email on Thursday. But wouldn’t any Georgian want to know this? And wouldn’t any sane official then follow up by eliminating these positions? That’s what Florida and Texas are trying to do.
I further asked Jones if he would ask the state Senate to reduce the budget cut if Perdue did the right thing and eliminated the wasteful fat of DEI. The answer was: “I am going to continue to ask the University System to evaluate all of their spending. I believe that’s the role of being a fiscal conservative, as I have always been. USG’s message of financial struggle is concerning when they receive a tenth of the state budget, equaling around $3.1 billion this past budget cycle.”
Then he added ominously, “If this significant amount of taxpayer dollars isn’t enough, I believe we need a thorough analysis to ensure they are not misappropriating state funding.”
My colleague Jay Greene and James D. Paul, a doctoral fellow at the University of Arkansas, have run the numbers on 65 universities representing 16% of students in four-year institutions. Their July 2021 study was groundbreaking, the first since universities made the promotion of DEI one of their main primary functions — even though DEI militates against the old primary function: truth discovery.
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Greene and Paul found that the average university in their sample has more than 45 staff members promoting DEI, which is 4.2 times the number of people assisting students with disabilities, as required by law, and 1.4 times the number of history professors.
The absolute worst offender was the University of Michigan, with a total of 163 DEI officers and a 15-1 ratio of DEI personnel to Americans with Disabilities Act compliance officers. (Does this suggest that race is a worse disability than a physical handicap?)
But Georgia schools have nothing to brag about. “At Georgia Tech,” Greene and Paul wrote, “there were 3.2 times as many DEI staff people as history professors.” The Georgia Institute of Technology has 41 DEI officers, while the University of Georgia has 38. Georgia Tech has a DEI-ADA personnel ratio of 5.1.
Greene put his finger on the crux of the logjam in Georgia when he emailed me that “Perdue may be unhappy with cuts in state appropriations to Georgia public universities, but taxpayers in that state also have reasons to be unhappy with the bloated and expensive DEI bureaucracies at those universities that are indoctrinating their children into a political agenda that runs contrary to taxpayers’ preferences.
“If Perdue wants to restore his funding he may need to restore faith with Georgia’s taxpayers,” Greene added. Exactly right.
This piece originally appeared in Restoring America by the Washington Examiner