STUDY: Diversity Officers ‘Contribute Nothing Positive to a University’

A new Baylor University study has discovered that chief diversity officers — who are typically paid upwards of $180,000 — are ineffective at one of their major job responsibilities: increasing diversity among faculty and administrators.

The study, “The Impact of Chief Diversity Officers on Diverse Faculty Hiring” was published in September by four Baylor University professors, including Steven Bradley, a professor of entrepreneurship at the school.

“Three years ago, there was a campus-wide discussion of whether to hire a CDO,” Bradley told PJ Media on Thursday. Supporters of the CDO position claimed it would help increase faculty diversity, in turn helping minority students feel safe on campus.

The summary of a 2016 campus survey put it more bluntly.

“The lack of [minority] representation among faculty sends a message for women and minorities to not bother applying to Baylor, [and that] the work environment is not safe or welcoming,” the report said.

Since then, Baylor officials appear to have punted. The prospect of hiring a diversity officer was too concerning for some school officials, who feared it would detract from the school’s Christian identity, according to the Waco-Tribune Herald.

(At Baylor, the possibility of hiring a CDO was so contentious — and ultimately abandoned — that it led to at least one resignation.)

But Bradley was still interested.

“Many of our colleagues argued that a CDO would enable us to increase the diversity of our faculty. And so, we wanted to empirically test whether this occurred in other universities when they hired a CDO.”

To examine this, Bradley and his team sleuthed through hiring data of 466 universities. Using data from 2001-2016, they looked at when universities hired a CDO, and assessed if the hiring corresponded to any increase in racial or ethnic minorities being hired.

After analyzing 466 universities and nearly 12,000 new hirees, the researchers concluded that there’s not enough “significant statistical evidence” to support the claim that CDOs benefit campus diversity. At all. But why?

While there may be other benefits of hiring a CDO, the answer is unclear. PJ Media contacted the trade organization for CDOs, the National Association for Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE), on Tuesday.

Considering the results of the Baylor study, I asked if there might be any other benefits of hiring a CDO. Perhaps CDO’s don’t improve faculty diversity, but instead, maybe they improve the graduation rates of minorities or first-generation college students?

But after some banter, the NADOHE declined to respond. They provided no evidence — anecdotal or empirical — illustrating that CDOs are worth their hefty paychecks.

As Campus Reform's Anthony Gockowski has reported, CDOs can earn upwards of $200,000 or $300,000 annually at public universities. At private schools, the salary could be much higher, but they aren’t mandated to publish any of their salary data.

Since the NADOHE punted, PJ Media spoke with two experts on the issue: AEI Scholar Mark Perry, and Heather Mac Donald, who just published the Peggy Noonan-approved book “The Diversity Delusion.

Mac Donald told PJ Media that CDOs “contribute nothing positive to a university.”

“The metastasizing diversity bureaucracy is founded on a delusion: that faculty search committees discriminate against competitively qualified candidates ‘of color,” among other false beliefs outlined in her new book.

“In fact, almost every faculty search is one desperate effort to find qualified females and underrepresented minorities who have not already been scooped up by a better-endowed university,” Mac Donald told PJ Media on Thursday.

Mark Perry — University of Michigan-Flint professor and AEI scholar — explained that CDOs shouldn’t be expected to increase faculty diversity anyways, since hiring decisions are typically made by department heads and academic deans.

Further, he said that forces of supply and demand often dictate who gets hired.

“For some fields in some years, there are way more candidates than openings, so the schools hiring have the upper hand. For other fields like accounting, there are more openings than candidates, so the candidates have the upper hand.”

“And given the reality that most faculty are supportive of the importance of diversity and inclusion, at least for skin color and gender if not intellectual diversity, there is no need for administrative oversight from a diversity officer,” added Perry.

The researchers behind the new study agree.

“While the overall number of diverse Ph.D. students is rising, they are concentrated in a few social science fields where jobs are scarce.  In other areas like STEM, for example, there are very few diverse candidates graduating,” added Stevens.

Thus, considering the lack of minority Ph.D. graduates in many fields, hiring diverse professors becomes nearly impossible.

So, do CDOs do any good? Mac Donald doesn’t think so.

“CDOs are worse than being a grotesque waste of taxpayer dollars.… By virtue of their mere presence in a bureaucracy, they reinforce the lie that racism infects college campuses, an idea that creates tensions and leads — of course—to the creation of even greater diversity administrator bloat,” said Mac Donald.

Read more about Mac Donald’s new book here.

Baylor University professors Steven W. Bradley, James R. Garven, Wilson W. Law, and James E. West equally contributed to the study.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen.