By Anna Miller and Ronald Nate, Ph.D.
The woke trinity of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is spreading in Idaho higher education under the leadership of university presidents, who pretend that DEI initiatives don’t exist on campus while simultaneously claiming such programs are “necessary” for their institutions. These contradictory statements cannot both be true at the same. Overall, Idaho’s higher education system spends more than $4.5 million a year on DEI. Instead of guiding their institutions in pursuing their core missions, the presidents of Idaho’s flagship universities are advancing DEI and building more culturally rigid campuses.
Last week was “education week” for the budget committee of the Idaho Legislature. Among those who presented to the committee were all the university and community college presidents who reported on the state of education in their realms. Mixed in with what we learned about the extent to which universities and colleges are awash with federal and state money was how they continue to promote the leftist, woke, and gender-soaked agenda on our kids and college students.
Boise State University President Marlene Tromp and her chief financial officer could not answer simple questions about why they needed to hire a new Vice Provost for Inclusion and Belonging and how much the provost would be paid (many similar positions exceed $200K annually). The total payroll for BSU’s 26 DEI administrators salaries is approximately $1.7 million. By eliminating all DEI administrators, BSU could support 279 in-state students per year with full-tuition scholarships.
University of Idaho President Scott Green directly admitted the university’s spending on DEI but maintained that U of I’s spending was proportional to that of other universities. He made no attempt to address the opportunity cost of losing academic excellence in the pursuit of DEI goals.
President Green doubled down on his assertions by citing two studies conducted by the Hawley Troxell Law Firm that rubber stamped his claims. According to Hawley Troxell, U of I spends a significant amount on DEI goals but its spending is proportional to that of similarly situated Idaho universities. It should come as no surprise how a law firm would confirm the message from the institution paying them, twice. President Green’s “expert witness” said just what it was paid to say: “Move along, folks. Nothing to see here.”
The U of I spends approximately $1.1 million on the salaries of 23 DEI administrators. Consequently, the university’s DEI administration is the second largest among public universities in the state. President Green told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee that these DEI positions were “necessary” for both the university and industry.
Idaho’s public higher education system now employs at least 57 DEI administrators. Six of these administrators make more than $100K per year. Collectively, they cost taxpayers and students over $4.5 million annually with fringe benefits included. This amount does not include other costs such as travel, office space expenses, training, conferences, or events, so the $4.5 million price tag underestimates the total costs of DEI in Idaho higher education.
At many universities, DEI started out as a single “multicultural center” with one dedicated administrator. Over time, universities created a centralized diversity office to support all these entities and then replicated these infrastructures across multiple academic and non-academic units. Today, campus administrations are dominated by a whole host of organizations focused on racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual identity groups.
This raises costs and fuels bureaucratic bloat.
For example, as mentioned above, BSU is currently seeking to hire a Vice Provost for Inclusion and Belonging. The university already employs an Assistant to the Vice President for Equity Initiatives, a Director of the Equity Advocates Program, and a Director of Service Learning. Furthermore, BSU has a Director for its the Blue Sky Institute, a center specifically dedicated to “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”
Meanwhile, the U of I employs a Director for the Black and African American Cultural Center, College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) Director in the Office of Equity and Diversity, Director of the LGBTQ Office, and Director of the Women’s Center. The list goes on.
Higher education's advancement of DEI fosters racial and gender-based grievances and compromises academic freedom and the pursuit of truth. This spending on administrative bloat raises costs for taxpayers and exacerbates student debt regardless of whether or not funds for such programs are funded by the state. If universities wasted less on DEI, they would need fewer taxpayer dollars.
University classrooms don’t go untouched by DEI agendas either. Many universities now require job applicants to submit statements describing their commitment to DEI. It’s no secret how university faculty are markedly leftist in political and social philosophy. Adding DEI criteria to the application process cements these dogmas into faculty thinking, teaching, and research.
Legislators should not wait for this growing problem to worsen. Lawmakers could abolish all DEI bureaucracies on college campuses and require administrators at public universities to be politically neutral. If administrators in DEI offices are focused on compliance with federal and civil rights laws, then those compliance issues should be moved to the university's legal counsel's office.
University presidents and administrators must be held accountable for not only abiding by the law, but respecting the public’s wishes that state universities exist to teach students knowledge and skills, not waste student and taxpayer resources on hiring corrupt ideologues and advancing social agendas like DEI. Honorable university presidents should defend the core mission of their institutions — to pursue truth — not DEI. Idaho wants academic excellence, not polluted leftist dogmas.