“This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in founding the University of Virginia. Two centuries later, however, UVA has pledged to spend seemingly illimitable funds—up to $1 billion—on diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, all while trying to downplay these efforts.  OpenTheBooks.com, an organization I founded and lead, is taking a closer look.

Four years ago, UVA president Jim Ryan announced the university’s major financial commitment to DEI initiatives. He outlined a package that included up to $150 million for race-based equity projects over the next three to five years; up to $650 million in long-term, endowed equity projects; and up to $150 million more for race-based scholarships and faculty chairs.

OpenTheBooks.com has since analyzed official UVA payroll records. In March, we concluded that the university was spending no less than $20 million per year of students and taxpayers’ money on 235 DEI employees, 82 of whom were students. Many employees, we found, were making more than $200,000 per year before benefits.

At the time, we had tallied only the positions that the university identified as DEI-related in its payroll file. We knew that our count was incomplete, however.

This week, our suspicions were confirmed. After examining university web posts, we found that UVA has laced even more DEI positions across its departments. We identified more than 100 additional employees across 80 university departments who, in addition to their primary roles at the university, were contributing variously as DEI deans, directors, project leads, coordinators, representatives, fellows, council members, faculty advisors, ex officio members, and even “JEDIs” (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion personnel).

These employees are spread across the university. The medical school has more than 20 DEI “representatives.” Engineering has nine DEI “directors.” The architecture school has six JEDI types, not counting the dean, Malo Andre Hutson, who earns $393,600 and named JEDI as a “key priority” for the school. Not even Virginia’s Division 1 athletic department is immune: Ed Scott, the deputy athletics director, is a DEI “diversity council member.”

These diversity leaders, who do not have DEI in their official payroll-position titles, are among UVA’s highest-paid staff:

John McLaren, an economics DEI director, is a professor making $254,000;

Kimberly Jenkins Robinson, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Law, is a law professor making $306,500;

William Epling Jr., a DEI director, is chairman of chemical engineering making $307,400; and

Yael Grushka-Cockayne, a DEI fellow, is a professor of business administration earning $347,000.

These and other diversity champions have a powerful impact on university operations. The university boasts that those appointed DEI directors are involved in the “[h]iring and retention of faculty,” “[u]ndergraduate and graduate student recruitment, retention, and curriculum,” and “[c]ultivating a diverse, inclusive, and equitable departmental climate,” among other influential tasks.

While UVA has publicly celebrated its DEI program, after our organization’s reporting, it has soft-peddled its scope. In March, a university spokesman claimed that our initial 235-employee headcount was “wildly overstate[d] ” and said the university only has 55 employees in DEI roles.

But President Ryan and the university have refused to release factual backup for their claim. Ryan’s spokesman, Brian Coy, has ignored our information requests, denigrated our findings, and misled the public about UVA’s spending. When we filed another Freedom of Information Act request, UVA replied—possibly in violation of Virginia’s transparency laws—that “[t]he University has no records responsive to your request.”

UVA is stonewalling. While the university refuses to be transparent, we’re confident in our count. To date, we’ve uncovered more than 350 UVA employees who are propelling the university’s DEI push. And we have yet to find them all. We have identified 22 employees listed as DEI leaders on university websites, for example, that we haven’t found on the school’s payroll—meaning the university websites are not up to date. The school also fails to list the members of numerous advisory groups, working groups, advisory councils, and diversity excellence groups.

Though President Ryan and his administration don’t want to disclose its size, UVA’s DEI program is massive. Every bit of it pulls resources from the university’s educational mission and brings the school further from the Enlightenment values championed by its founder.

Students and taxpayers must reconcile this contradiction at one of America’s finest universities—or take other steps. They shouldn’t have to foot the bill for the Ryan administration’s billion-dollar embrace of progressivism.

Photo: Perry Spring/iStock/Getty Images Plus


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