New Study: Diversity Officers at U.S. Colleges are Anti-Israel

Heritage Explains

New Study: Diversity Officers at U.S. Colleges are Anti-Israel

Many DEI staff are particularly unwelcoming toward Jewish students who, like the vast majority of Jews worldwide, feel a strong connection to the state of Israel.

A new study by Heritage senior policy analyst Jay Greene, Ph.D., found that an overwhelming number of DEI hires are spewing antisemitic views about Israel on social media. Greene breaks down his findings on this week's episode.

Michelle Cordero: From The Heritage Foundation, I'm Michelle Cordero, and this is Heritage Explains.

Cordero: It's becoming increasingly obvious that the promotion of diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, has exploded on college campuses, but what's been less talked about is the staff at these universities who are helping to facilitate it.

Cordero: Did you know that the average U.S. college employs 45 DEI officials, and that number is growing? DEI offices are led by people with titles like Senior Associate Vice President for Diversity and Equity, and of course these central offices all have subordinates. Additionally, almost all universities have something like a multicultural affairs center. Most also have women's centers, LGBTQ centers, and Hispanic/Latino centers. These centers have directors, assistant directors, program assistants, graduate and undergraduate interns and administrative staff.

>>> Diversity University: DEI Bloat in the Academy

Cordero: To help understand the scope of this type of staffing at our universities, Heritage created an interactive graphic that allows you to explore DEI personnel levels at 65 universities. You can even compare the ratio of DEI personnel to core teaching personnel like history professors or special accommodation staff. Sadly, this is just the beginning of this story. Jay Greene, the Heritage researcher behind the interactive graphic, recently published a new report. It turns out that an overwhelming number of these diversity officers at colleges across the country also hold anti-Israel views. After this short break, we'll talk to Greene about his findings.

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Cordero: Jay, thank you so much for joining us.

Jay Greene: Thanks for having me on.

Cordero: Why did you decide to start this research?

Greene: We wanted to help explain why the values being taught in schools are increasingly out of line with what families, communities, state legislators want. I think that there was a theory, particularly on the right, that the reason why things were the way they were was that schools had been captured by radicals, as teachers and administrators, that they were radicals and that they themselves had been brainwashed in ed school and so on, that there was kind of a long-term conspiracy here going on. I think that that was mistaken. I suspect it was mistaken. And instead our belief is that the average teacher, the average administrator, the average student in college actually is not radical at all. They're fairly centrist. They may not be quite where our listeners would wish them to be, but they're not radicals for the most part, and we have a lot of polling data to confirm that.

>>> Equity Elementary: “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” Staff in Public Schools

Greene: So instead our theory, which I think we've helped demonstrate with the series of reports, is that there's a very well organized activist group of students and faculty on college campuses, and now it's making its way down into K-12, and that activist group has an organizational advantage that allows them to impose their preferences on everyone else, but it's not popular within those institutions and it's not popular in the general public. I think that's good news for us because it means that ultimately we're going to win. We just have to highlight what's going on, get people to counter-organize, and then we're going to beat the current minority of folks who have imposed this on us.

Cordero: Tell me a little bit more about who this activist group is.

Greene: Sure. A main activist group is organized by the diversity, equity and inclusion staff in higher ed. Those all sound like good words.

Cordero: They sound like red flags to me.

Greene: Well, you've been trained. You've been alerted. But to most people in the world they think diversity is a good thing and they should think diversity is a good thing, because it is. Inclusion is a nice thing. Equity sounds like a good word, equality, although it's really a bad word. It all sounds good to people, but hidden within this diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI effort, is really a political movement to impose the opposite of those things, and they're the people who are essentially the political commissars, articulating and enforcing an ideological orthodoxy within those institutions.

Cordero: Your recent study tried to decide if these DEI personnel are promoting behaviors that would create this welcoming environment that they're supposed to be doing. What did you find?

Greene: We have a trilogy. There was a Star Wars trilogy, and now we have a DEI trilogy, and in that order. So we had Diversity University, then Equity Elementary, and the most recent report is Inclusion Delusion.

Greene: In Inclusion delusion, we looked at 741 DEI staff at 65 universities who have Twitter accounts, and we just analyzed the content of their Twitter accounts to see what they had to say about Israel and for comparison purposes, what they had to say about China. We suspected, and the data confirmed, that they're obsessed with Israel relative to China. They talk almost three times as much about Israel as China, but also they're almost completely critical of Israel. 96% of all of these Twitter communications were critical of Israel. While those about China, 62% were favorable.

Greene: What we think is it's a window into their thought process. They are not simply promoters of human rights. They have a very particular political agenda that is a progressive political agenda, and that's what they enforce, not general and universally applied principles of human rights or concern for peace in the world. That's not clearly their agenda. And we, I think, were able to capture what their agenda really is by analyzing what they talk about on Twitter.

Cordero: Can you give me an example of some of these tweets that you analyzed?

Greene: Sure. Now, remember these are things that they tweeted, retweeted or liked. So not all of these were authored by them, but they are signaling that this is what they believe. And anyone who would look at their Twitter feeds would get that impression. We also think that this then reflects how they think and what they're doing when they're on campus as well.

Greene: Some of these are not family friendly for a family podcast like this.

Cordero: So earmuffs, basically.

Greene: Right. One person liked this tweet that says, "Y'all love to add the word "liberal" in front of the most evil things, and it's unhinged-ed-ed-ed." I don't know. Remember it's Twitter. "WTF is a liberal Zionist? What's next liberal Nazi, liberal colonizer, liberal murderer, liberal imperialist, liberal fascist?" So clearly to this person, someone who is a Zionist, someone who believes that there's a Jewish Homeland in Israel, that person is equivalent to a Nazi, a colonizer, a murderer, an imperialist and a fascist.

>>> Inclusion Delusion: The Antisemitism of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Staff at Universities

Greene: Or things like, "Israel has a particular loathing for children. They target them with violence specifically and intentionally every single day." This is a classic anti-Semitic trope of child sacrifice. Jews are engaged in some sort of ritualistic slaughter of children. Again, it's an intemperate tone for people who have a professional obligation to be inclusive and to reduce hate and bias. They're clearly doing the opposite at least with respect to Jews.

Greene: And then the question is which groups are the groups that they think need to be welcoming towards, and which are the groups that they don't mind sticking it to? I think that reflects a broader worldview they have.

Cordero: All right, so let's talk a little bit about the context of all of this. Anti-Semitic attacks on universities are on the rise, correct?

Greene: They are. Things have started to get pretty bad on college campus. Again, I think a lot of people on the right suspect that the reason for this is just that higher ed is just filled with people who have all sorts of awful ideas, but it's mostly not. Our children are the students there, and they're mostly not crazy people.

Greene: But because of an emboldened minority group of activists, who are being unchecked by university authorities, things have gotten very bad on campus rhetorically, but also physical violence, graffiti, mezuzahs, which are Jewish signs that people would have on the door of their dorm room, these are religious symbols, are being torn off their dorm rooms. It's a little bit like lighting fire to a Christmas tree in front of Fox News or something. These are attacks on people's religious symbols and they're meant to intimidate them from practicing their beliefs or holding those identities.

Cordero: You've done these series of reports on this theme, and clearly DEI personnel are not doing their job. What can we do to change this?

Greene: This is a tough one because we at Heritage like to think of policy solutions. There are policy solutions here, but there's no single one that's going to do it. The most important policy solution, which involves actually a whole set of actions, which is we have to starve the beast. Universities are awash in too much money. I know they say the opposite, but they are awash in too much money. And the more money they have, the more nonsense they can indulge. So we need to begin to really scale back the extent of public subsidy of higher education.

Greene: There are many forms of this. As a general policy matter, I think at Heritage, we're deeply suspicious of all of these forms of subsidies and are thinking about ways of restructuring our higher education system so that it doesn't live off of taxpayer support in this extreme way, and that taxpayer support is not just unjust in that it takes from working class people and redistributes wealth to wealthier people who are in enrolled in college. But also, it's again, indulging very dysfunctional and nonsensical behavior.

Cordero: We want to reduce the amount of money that goes to the universities and that in turn will reduce the size of this staff?

Greene: Right. In a forthcoming study, we look at federal subsidies for research activity at universities. They pay a very high rate for overhead on research grants; 50, 60% overhead rates. No one else pays that rate, but the Federal Government does, and it's worth billions of dollars to higher education every year. We also find that the institutions with more indirect money from the Federal Government, more overhead expenditures from the Federal Government, those are the institutions that have larger DEI staff. They're getting larger subsidies from the feds and they use those profits to pay for things they wish to indulge. So it indulges mischief here.

Cordero: That makes sense. Well Jay, thank you so much for joining us to talk about this and thank you for your important research, and we'll have you back for that upcoming report.

Greene: Thanks. Looking forward to it.

Cordero: That's it for this week's episode. Merry, Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones. We hope you have a warm, healthy, and safe holiday, and we'll see you next week.

Heritage Explains is brought to you by more than half a million members of The Heritage Foundation. It is produced by Michelle Cordero and Tim Doescher with editing by John Popp.