Within the framework of the University of Michigan’s extensive program on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), a sizable team comprising over 500 employees is dedicated to these efforts. This program costs more than $30 million annually, according to a study by Mark Perry, an economist at the University of Michigan-Flint and fellow scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Perry’s investigation indicates that the university has employed a minimum of 241 staff members, the primary duties of whom are associated with DEI services and programs. This workforce is expected to cost $30.68 million a year, which is a substantial financial burden. Of this amount, $23.34 million is allocated for salaries, and $7.44 million is reserved for benefits. Perry notes that the funds expended here could also cover the in-state tuition and fees for 1,781 undergraduate students.
A notable portion of the DEI staff is paid exceptionally well. For example, Tabbye Chavous Sellers, the Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer at the University of Michigan, earns $402,800 annually in her role. This amount is roughly twice the median salary of a full-time professor at the institution. Furthermore, the annual salary of thirteen DEI employees exceeds $200,000, while sixty-six others receive over $100,000. The average yearly salary for DEI employees is approximately $96,000 after benefits are deducted.
76 faculty and staff members are employed by the university as “DEI Unit Leads,” in addition to the dedicated DEI staff. These people are in charge of advancing diversity initiatives across several departments within the parameters of the university’s five-year DEI plan. When all employees are taken into account—volunteers, full- and part-time staff, and open positions—the total number of University of Michigan staff members involved in DEI is estimated to be more than 500, if not 600.
Conversely, the University of Michigan disputes these findings and refers to Perry’s analysis as “misleading.” Diversity outreach and recruitment do not have their own budget, according to a university spokesman; rather, DEI is regarded as one of the university’s core values. It is stressed that the majority of workers who take part in DEI programs do so on top of their normal duties and responsibilities. The university contends that its size, scope, and complexity—it comprises 51 units distributed over three campuses, an academic medical center, and a community of over 100,000 employees and students—make its DEI initiatives appropriate.
The university’s five-year academic plan mandates that DEI practices be applied in all units, including academic and non-academic departments like athletics, IT, botanical gardens, and art museums. Every one of these units needs to implement a DEI plan.
Academic Perry has expressed dissatisfaction with the university’s DEI bureaucracy. He compares the University of Michigan’s diversity plans to the five-year central plans of Communist China and the Soviet Union, seeing them as repressive, top-down bureaucratic frameworks for social engineering.
The circumstances at the University of Michigan serve as a reminder of the increasing amount of financial and administrative support, as well as the attention, that higher education institutions are giving to DEI initiatives.