Virginia’s George Mason University: Dodging the Real Question about Destructive Diversity Ideology?

Last month, Washington D.C.’s most visible, conservative think-tank, the Heritage Foundation, published a report on the size of “diversity” bureaucracies at major state universities. To everyone’s surprise, Virginia’s George Mason University (GMU) had the highest ratio of diversity employees to tenured faculty, even though it’s viewed as a more conservative school. For example, it’s home to Scalia Law School, named after the former conservative Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Alarmed and defensive about the findings, GMU President Gregory Washington shot back five days later with a blast email to all 40,000 GMU faculty, students and staff, claiming the report was flawed and the school is ideologically balanced.

Welcome to diversity wars.

“Diversity” is a euphemism for identity politics based on race and sex and demanded by leftwing radicals wanting to pit Americans against one another. It distracts from the pursuit of excellence, where everyone’s attention should be, not just in higher education but in almost every sphere of American life – business, athletics and the arts.

By almost every measure, American higher education is about as far from excellence as it could be. Current college graduates are among the most ignorant yet also the most politically radicalized. Coincidence? They have unprecedented student loan debt, suggesting financial illiteracy; they know little of American history with most unable to date the civil war or the Declaration of Independence, suggesting civics illiteracy; and they know even less of World history, geography and culture. Surveys also show that graduates lose cognitive ability such as writing skills, reading comprehension and problem-solving during college.

But they can blather about diversity!

The Heritage Report is not the first to document the diversity mushroom on campus. Since 2021 at least five other such reports have been issued for state schools in MaineTennessee, Idaho, North Carolina and, most recently, for Virginia: In January of this year, the Virginia Association of Scholars (VAS), an affiliate of the National Association of Scholars, documented “diversity” costs at Virginia’s public universities in a report titled, Should Virginians be funding University Leftism?  It found that in 2020 alone, Virginians paid more than $15 million for so-called “diversity, equity and inclusion” (DEI) programs in the state’s public institutions of higher education. Yet even this high figure has since been surpassed as every school pledged to increase diversity spending after the George Floyd incident in May of that year.

In fact, almost every major school – whether Ivy League or large public university, whether in Virginia or elsewhere  – reacted this way. Were they working in lockstep? More money was pledged not just to diversity but to its cousin, “anti-racism” (affirmative action and racial preferences by another name) as if these were somehow panaceas for police encounters going bad. Curiously, no one proposed any other possible remedy or course of prevention. For example, no one proposed research on or critiques of police “knee-to-neck holds,” an unseemly and obviously dangerous police practice which appears totally unnecessary. Likewise no one proposed research on how police should contend with citizens under the influence of drugs. Nope. Instead, every leader and seemingly every business and governmental entity – and especially every college and university – seemed to think (posture?) that the solution to every social problem and police misdeed is just more “diversity” programs.

The ancients would ask, “Cui bono?” Or: Who benefits … from this universal, conformist reaction? Perhaps the very diversity bureaucrats profiled in reports like those from Heritage and the Virginia Association of Scholars?

For higher education, let’s remember that this diversity money is not for books, laboratories, on-line data bases or even professors – which is to say, the funds and the schools now appear totally concerned not with education but with indoctrination.  Families and students – especially prospective students – must wake up to this sobering reality.

Adding insult to injury, schools continue to raise tuition thanks to the easy money of the federal student loan program. Tuition has increased at a rate not only higher than the general inflation rate but higher than inflationary economic sectors such as housing and healthcare. Looks like so-called higher education gets more costly more quickly than any other service sector. And where does the tuition money go? To “diversity” bureaucracies.

To be fair, many Americans have woken up to the fact that the higher education emperor has no clothes. Enrollments are down and some schools are closing shop. But there’s still a long way to go.

Above all, the current conversation among George Mason University, the Heritage Foundation and the Virginia Association of Scholars should not reduce to, “Does George Mason University have 69 diversity bureaucrats or 68?” While Heritage substantiated its numbers in response to GMU President Washington’s objections, everyone knows the issue is bigger than which school outdoes its peers in diversity hiring, though that’s an understandable starting point and an equally understandable disappointment for supporters of George Mason University. (Many thought the school was going to be rigorously independent and not follow the ideological crowd. Alas).

As the Virginia Association of Scholars asks, the real issue is: Why is diversity ideology on campus at all? And why are taxpayers funding it?

Let’s hope George Mason University President Gregory Washington will stop dodging this question, will stop defending diversity poison and will, instead, restore real education at the school he leads.

Teresa R. Manning is Policy Director at the National Association of Scholars, President of the Virginia Association of Scholars and a former law professor at Virginia’s Scalia Law School, George Mason University.

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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: Statue of Confucius on the campus of George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia. (Photo by: Robert Knopes/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)