Share Your DEI Data, UVA!

by James A. Bacon

We’re making progress of a sort… The University of Virginia is dribbling out details that clarify the University’s spending on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Thanks to an article in UVA Today, the University’s house news organ, we have learned a bit more about how UVA classifies its employees as “DEI,” allowing us to move a baby step closer to a solid number.

But the analysis is far from complete, and the debate continues unabated. We urge UVA to make public the data it uses. We extend an offer to collaborate in getting beyond what is at present a debate over semantics — whether a particular employee should be tagged as “DEI” or not.

The size and scope of UVA’s DEI bureaucracy has long been a matter of conjecture. The Heritage Foundation has taken a swipe at divining a number, as has the Virginia Association of Scholars. At one point UVA told The New York Times that it had 40 DEI employees, and not long thereafter the administration told the Board of Visitors that it had 55 — a number it has stuck with. The question became one of national interest when Open The Books, in collaboration with the Jefferson Council, published an estimate of 235 employees including student interns.

“Strictly as a factual matter, if you hear UVA spends $20 million yearly on DEI programs, including 235 employees, that’s simply false,” Kevin McDonald, UVA’s vice president for diversity, equity, inclusion and community partnerships, told UVA Today.

Sure, given whom UVA includes as a DEI employee, that’s likely true. But who counts as a DEI employee? Who is UVA including and excluding?

While Open the Books has made its methodology public and listed the employees and salaries it counts under the DEI rubric, UVA has so far refused to publish comparable data. Rather, it has criticized Open the Books’ count while revealing none of its own definitions and assumptions.

The lack of transparency does not necessarily mean that UVA is wrong. But how seriously would anyone take an economist, sociologist, or physicist who criticized another scholar’s data without publishing any of his or her own?

As this debate has unfolded, UVA has shared bits and pieces of what goes into its own calculation of 55 employees. Here are some of UVA’s key assertions (with our parenthetical inserts): Open the Books…

  • Wrongly included about 100 UVA students who serve as community tutors and career counselors. (For the record, Open the Books did describe those individuals as student interns.)
  • Misclassified many others responsible for investigating claims made under various provisions of the federal civil rights laws, including those relating to sexual violence or religious discrimination. (Please tell us whom Open the Books misclassified so we can ascertain if this charge has merit or not.)
  • Included faculty and staff members who have some DEI responsibilities but classified them inaccurately as full-time DEI employees. (Again, please tell us who we’re talking about.)

Here’s what Open the Books did not include, as it made very clear in its expose.

  • Employees whose function is clearly related to DEI but do not have DEI in their title or in the name of their department/office.
  • Faculty members who have part-time DEI responsibilities at the departmental level.
  • Speaker fees, grants, travel, and miscellaneous expenses relating to DEI.

Likewise, it appears that UVA has excluded office support staff in DEI offices on the grounds that they don’t perform DEI work. Yet, if the DEI offices did not exist, there would be no need for such support staff. Should they be included or excluded?

Then there’s a point that the Jefferson Council has made repeatedly: The University spends tens of millions of dollars annually on activities closely related to the DEI mission. For instance, it maintains an administrative apparatus dedicated to recruiting minority undergraduates, graduate students, faculty members and staff. While UVA defines “DEI” narrowly to avoid the embarrassment of having the University Community know how much it spends on its bureaucracy, DEI is only part of a larger social-justice mission to make UVA “great and good.” Focusing on DEI narrows the conversation to a sub-set of employees dedicated to the administration’s social justice mission.

It is impossible to evaluate UVA’s claims definitively because UVA refuses to publish its data. A core principle of academic research is for scholars to make their data open to inspection by others for the purpose of peer review. The UVA administration doesn’t live up to its own principles.

The Jefferson Council would be happy to convene a meeting with the UVA administration and Open the Books to sift through the data, discuss employee classifications, and produce an agreed-upon count of DEI employees and expenditures that could provide the basis for future conversation. I am certain Open the Books would participate. Would UVA?

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Walter smith
Walter smith
23 days ago

This is true on many levels.
Admissions and UVA’s “community partnership” initiatives to name two.
Why does UVA not cooperate and uses FOIA exemptions (I believe wildly expanded interpretations of FOIA exemptions) to withhold info it has?

Generally, when a person is in a position of trust and does not immediately open the books to answer the question of an intended beneficiary, that person is hiding something.

UVA’s actions indicate hiding. I would love to be able to sit down to understand UVA’s admissions process, data, use and distribution of scholarship funds. UVA has the data…housed in lots of different places. Under FOIA the entity does not have to “create” a document. But it does have to allow you data. UVA apparently by mistake created a wonderful admissions document showing applicants, offer rates, in State, out of State, legacy, non-legacy with racial classification (IPEDS) and SAT info overlaid. It has refused to do so or cooperate for the last two admissions cycles, using FOIA. The reason is UVA knows it reveals something that it does not want to admit it is doing – at least that’s my interpretation and UVA’s non-cooperation seems to confirm it.

There is a reason the Honor System is on life support. And there is a reason the Grounds has hate parading while Nero fiddles… If you are truly “great and good,” why do you need to keep the info in the dark and only release your curated propaganda through your house organs?

23 days ago
Reply to  Walter smith

The tell tale ways of Marxists, who will only comply when a “bigger hammer” is brought to bear. And that being a determined and focused oversight employed by a BOV acting as adults giving no quarter to the nonsense of DEI.

This Perry case, and likely many others to come, does untold damage to UVA’s standing as a revered institution of tertiary education. Ryan and his cabal are burning it down while we speak and it behooves the BOV to step in and act swiftly and with resolve. A disgusting situation that could have been easily prevented yet for the mind rot of DEI Ryan et al are promoting.

Robert L May
Robert L May
23 days ago
22 days ago

The Open the Books study, 100% derived by corroborative facts, is evidence of the Administration’s stunning lack of true transparency. Open the Books shared their data with the Administration. The Administration refused Open the Books requests to share their “proof” of their lower DEI totals, finally admitting they did not have the back up data. That is the truth. In other words, they’re making it up as they go along.