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The Decline of America’s Universities – The High Costs Of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

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Several Ivy League schools have been put under a national microscope recently for applying the right to free speech inconsistently. These universities are giving some groups unwavering protection to protest while shutting down other groups altogether. These inconsistencies have one common denominator: higher education’s unwavering devotion to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).

DEI’s focus on race and gender is credited with much of the divisiveness on college campuses these days and Illinois’ university system is not immune. Look no further than the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), where Communication 9 goes as far as to tie faculty performance evaluations to professors’ commitment to DEI. We outlined problems with the university’s initiative here.

But what also deserves attention are the growing DEI bureaucracies and the significant financial costs associated with them. Illinois’ universities are building out big teams led by executives with big pay, the highest among them being Sean Garrick, Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). His total compensation in 2023 is reported at $352,000, according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

But he’s just the tip of the DEIceberg.

In a state with the most units of local government in the country, it should be no surprise that Illinois’ higher education system is fragmented. Each university has its own DEI bureaucracy and, within each bureaucracy, its own flavour of DEI leadership. 

The result is an administrative hodgepodge that can make it difficult to track how pervasive DEI is embedded in each institution. Chief Executives, Chancellors, Vice Chancellors, and Associate Vice Chancellors—the titles for DEI executives are nearly as diverse as the department itself. And their total compensation is anywhere from Doris Houston’s $155,000 at Illinois State University to Garrick’s $352,000.

Keep in mind that the names in the table below are only the top officials listed in the Illinois Higher Board of Education’s salary database. There are many, many more lower-level functionaries we’ll have to work to identify in future reporting.

Below, we break down some of the bureaucracies within the entire system. The list is not meant to be comprehensive because universities are still not consistent with their reporting, nomenclature, or role definitions.

University of Illinois System: In addition to Garrick, UIUC also has an Associate Vice Chancellor for Access and Equity and an Executive Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity. 

Meanwhile, the University of Illinois at Chicago has a Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Engagement who makes $237,000 and also has an Executive Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity. All told, there are over a dozen director-level DEI staff under the UofI umbrella.

DEI is not just a human resources thing either. UIC also has an Office of Procurement Diversity.

Southern Illinois University: Under the System Office, which oversees numerous locations under the SIU umbrella, Sheila L. Caldwell is paid nearly $250,000 as the Vice President for Anti-racism, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer. Meanwhile, SIU-Carbondale has a Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and SIU-School of Medicine has an Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

Northern Illinois University: Vernese E. Edghill-Walden was being paid nearly $250,000 to serve as the Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Office. Past tense because she recently accepted a position at Bucknell University.

Eastern Illinois University recently hired their inaugural Executive Director & Senior Diversity and Inclusion Officer, whose duties begin in 2024.

Governors State University hired their first Chief Diversity Officer back in 2021. That person left GSU the following year.

Illinois State University has Doris Houston, a Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer.

Western Illinois University has an Office of Justice, Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (JIDE) with an interim director. 

Northeastern Illinois University has an Executive Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). 

Chicago State University, a school whose current enrollment is 77% African American, seemingly has no formal DEI department at this time.

The veil is slowly lifting on every college campus. What lies underneath is a vast network of largesse and bureaucracy that we are only beginning to unearth.

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