Destructive Diversity Ideology at Virginia’s Universities Must Go

The inevitable pushback against destructive “diversity” ideology has begun. The Virginia Association of Scholars (VAS) this week released a scathing new report, “Should Virginians pay for University ‘Diversity’ Leftism?” 

The publication coincides with the opening of the General Assembly in Richmond. But all state officials should take note, especially Governor Glenn Youngkin and Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears, given their oft-stated concerns about education. Attorney General Jason Miyares, who just announced an investigation into prestigious Thomas Jefferson High School for improper racial concerns associated with withholding National Merit Scholarships, might be interested, too. Not coincidentally, race-based practices are a big part of “diversity, equity and inclusion” (DEI) at Virginia’s state universities. Maybe the attorney general could broaden his probe to include higher education as well?

VAS is not alone in exposing the malignancy and metastasization of diversity ideology in colleges and universities: groups in Maine, Tennessee, Idaho, and North Carolina have identified similar problems in those states. And Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has just asked public universities there to report on their DEI expenditures. While each state is obviously focused on its own schools and tax dollars, the issue for all is the same, pointing to a nationwide problem: Colleges and universities have become bloated, ideological money pits intent on indoctrinating students instead of educating them—at sky high cost to those students and to taxpayers. 

Schools do this by hiring numerous well-paid “administrators” to impose leftwing DEI ideology at events like freshmen orientation, residence hall meetings, and mandated training sessions for faculty and staff. The easy money of the federal student loan program gives schools the cash to hire useless administrators. This means that student debt not only subsidizes DEI but also, ironically, tuition hikes, as schools charge more when they spend more, creating an upward spiral of loans, inflated tuition and left-wing, administrative bloat.

In fall 2021, for example, Virginia’s James Madison University in Harrisonburg showed a DEI video to student employees running orientation; the video divided individuals into two groups, “oppressor” and “oppressed.” The “oppressed” included non-Western Europeans, homosexuals, LGBTQ+, blacks, Asians and “Latinx,” while the “oppressors” included men, heterosexuals, Western Europeans, Christians, the middle class and . . . Americans!

As the Virginia report notes, this view ignores that America and the West are actually less racially bigoted than most of the world and more focused on the individual and more tolerant of individual differences. The report also asks who is behind this destructive and divisive worldview? Who benefits when a citizenry is turned against itself this way? And, most important, should Virginians be paying for this?

The report shows that Virginia’s state colleges and universities spent more than $15 million on DEI administration in 2020, though the figure is already outmoded as all of the surveyed schools have pledged to increase DEI spending in coming years. And, indeed, data from 2021 were available for two schools—JMU and the University of Virginia (UVA)—both of which basically doubled DEI spending. In 2020, JMU had 33 administrators and spent over $2.5 million; but in 2021, it had 65 administrators and spent over $5 million. Likewise, in 2020, UVA had 38 administrators and spent just over $4 million; while in 2021, it listed 77 such administrators and spent nearly $7 million.

As VAS report points out, those dollars could have funded more than 1,100 full-tuition scholarships for needy students; or the money could have paid for around 150 full-time professors, which would have supported real education and instruction, not political indoctrination. It also could have reduced student debt.

The report goes on to explain that DEI is approaching religious status, though far more dogmatic, intolerant, and totalitarian than most Western faiths. DEI classes are now required before students can graduate while dissenters are shamed or harassed. DEI training is also demanded of professors. And those applying for faculty openings are routinely required to make statements committing to DEI in their applications. We used to call those “loyalty oaths.”

The First Amendment guarantees citizens the right to free exercise of religion and therefore forbids mind and speech control of this sort. To state the obvious, these practices are repugnant to the American tradition and yet they are now widespread on campuses.

The report ends with recommendations to state officials to put an end to this lunacy. The General Assembly controls appropriations for education in the Commonwealth and obviously, whoever pays the piper calls the tune. So it’s within the scope of lawmakers’ authority to ban compulsory DEI classes and training for students, faculty and staff and to do away with required loyalty oaths from candidates for any job. Certainly, the General Assembly could revisit university funding of DEI administrative staff. Happily, the new VAS report makes the numbers readily available. 

The General Assembly and the attorney general could also investigate whether Virginia’s schools are hiring, grading, or granting tenure on the basis of race or sex. Such action by a state school is illegal not just under state and federal law but also under the U.S. Constitution. No amount of DEI talk about “oppressor” and “oppressed” to favor one group over another changes that.  

Last, the General Assembly could require schools receiving state funding to certify—under penalty of perjury—that they are, in fact, taking required steps toward reform.  

The current politicized, racialized state of American higher education did not just “happen” and its undoing will therefore also not just “happen.” Left-wing ideological administrators have long been marching through these institutions and they certainly will not leave of their own accord. Grown-ups in the state must now wake up and right this ship so our young people stop drowning in debt and anti-American propaganda known as “diversity, equity and inclusion.”

In short, destructive diversity ideology needs to go.

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About Teresa R. Manning

Teresa R. Manning is the policy director at the National Association of Scholars and a former law professor at Scalia Law School, George Mason University.

Photo: DAXIA ROJAS/AFP via Getty Images