Diversity, equity, and inclusion in academia.
A cost-benefit analysis and my personal experience in the STEM fields.
Quick note: I have recently rebranded this Substack to include more than just climate science. Thus, I will be writing a bit more about academia, politics, and culture. I hope you enjoy and thank you for the support.
Affirmative action and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives in academia have a history rooted in efforts to combat racial discrimination and promote equal opportunities. Originating in the 1960s in response to the Civil Rights Movement, affirmative action aimed to ensure marginalized groups, particularly African Americans, had access to education and employment opportunities. It began with executive orders and federal regulations, such as President Kennedy's Executive Order 10925 in 1961, which required government contractors to take affirmative action.
The implementation of affirmative action in academia underwent significant developments through landmark Supreme Court cases. In the Regents of the University of California v. Bakke case (1978), the Court ruled that while considering race in admissions was constitutional, strict quotas were not permissible. This decision established the precedent for race to be considered as a factor among others in admissions processes. The Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger cases (2003) further reinforced the importance of diversity, affirming that race could be one factor in holistic admissions processes.
Over time, the focus broadened from affirmative action to broader DEI initiatives. These initiatives aimed to create inclusive environments, address systemic biases, and increase the representation of underrepresented groups in academia. Beyond race, DEI efforts encompass gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, disability, and other dimensions of diversity.
The implementation of DEI in academia involves various strategies. Institutions have expanded outreach efforts, implemented holistic admissions processes, and established support networks for underrepresented students and faculty. Diversity training programs have also been implemented.
However, these initiatives have not been without challenges and controversies. Critics argue that they may lead to reverse discrimination, undermine meritocracy, or perpetuate stereotypes. Consequently, legal battles and debates over the constitutionality of affirmative action continue to shape the implementation of these policies.
Nevertheless, academic institutions continue increasing their DEI initiatives, utilizing problematic decision-making in striving to create inclusive environments.
Consequences of DEI in academia…
DEI initiatives have the stated goal of increasing the employment of underrepresented groups in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields. While the impact can vary across institutions and initiatives, the overall gains for underrepresented groups with a STEM degree are equivalent to the gains for those without a STEM degree, calling into question if the initiatives are achieving their stated goals.
While DEI initiatives in academia have aimed to promote fairness and equal opportunities, it is important to acknowledge the real-world negative consequences associated with their implementation. Including backlash and reverse discrimination, where individuals from historically advantaged groups feel unfairly treated or excluded. Additionally, tokenism and symbolic gestures undermine the genuine support and opportunities for underrepresented individuals. DEI initiatives compromise meritocracy and academic excellence, as preferences given to underrepresented groups during admissions or hiring processes are based on immutable characteristics and not performance. There is also a risk of perpetuating stereotypes and essentialism, limiting the diversity of ideas and experiences within underrepresented groups. However, these real-world consequences are commonly overlooked as the intent is more important than the outcomes.
Cost of DEI of academia…
The amount of funding that universities allocate specifically for DEI initiatives can vary significantly depending on the institution, its size, and its priorities. There is no standardized or fixed budget for DEI across all universities. However, many universities have recognized the importance of DEI and have been increasing their investments in these initiatives in recent years.
Large research universities and institutions with dedicated DEI offices or departments often allocate significant resources to support their DEI efforts. This can include funding for various programs and initiatives, such as scholarships, recruitment and retention efforts, training and workshops, mentorship programs, campus climate surveys, and other activities aimed at fostering a more inclusive and equitable environment.
Let’s look at my former employer, The University of Alabama…
Lets me say that UA is likely on the lower end of the spectrum of DEI initiatives so this will be a conservative cost-benefit analysis.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial