Group says schools spend huge on DEI. Is it overstating?

Adam Andrzejewski and his group, OpenTheBooks, appear very busy. The previous Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate and his group publish an ongoing collection of articles at RealClearInvestigations, a conservative-leaning information web site, referred to as “Waste of the Day.”

Amongst OpenTheBooks’ many targets have been Dr. Anthony Fauci’s compensation, federal companies’ spending and California governor Gavin Newsom’s opposition to a measure that might restrict taxes. And amid the present nationwide political fixation on universities, together with their variety, fairness and inclusion efforts, “Waste of the Day” articles have appeared since December specializing in DEI spending on the College of North Carolina system, the College of Virginia and Oklahoma public universities, plus different points at Indiana College, Northwestern College and Ivy League establishments.

Andrzejewski and OpenTheBooks additionally publicize the investigations on their very own webpages and on social media, and conservative media retailers have uncritically repeated the flashy numbers that seem in headlines.

Citing OpenTheBooks’ reporting in a section this yr, Fox Information host Jesse Watters mentioned, “When you haven’t realized by now that DEI is a grift, let me simply take you to high school—particularly the College of Virginia, which spends practically $20 million a yr on DEI.”

OpenTheBooks is one other identify for American Transparency, a nonprofit Andrzejewski based. It’s labeled as a 501(c)(3), which the IRS says is for “charitable, non secular, instructional” and different functions.

Its deal with is Andrzejewski’s Hinsdale, Sick., dwelling. American Transparency posted its 2023 IRS Kind 990 on its web site, displaying $3.5 million in income that yr and compensation exceeding $100,000 every for seven workers, together with $197,000 for Andrzejewski and $323,000 for Craig Mijares, the chief working officer.

What that kind, and Andrzejewski, don’t say is the place the cash comes from. In a quick cellphone interview, Andrzejewski mentioned American Transparency is a personal group and “we don’t launch the names of our non-public donors, interval.” He answered additional questions through e mail.

“Our donors benefit from the skill to privately help causes they imagine in, together with ours,” Andrzejewski wrote. “Privateness is for people, and we’re owed transparency from authorities.”

Andrzejewski mentioned his group employs and contracts with licensed public accountants and makes use of forensic auditing instruments. On March 5, he revealed OpenTheBooks’ investigation into the College of Virginia beneath an eye-popping headline: “College of Virginia Spends $20 Million On 235 DEI Staff, With Some Making $587,340 Per Yr.” The article hyperlinks to an Excel sheet of all these workers, together with their names and base pay.

Posted on the Substack webpage for his group, the article praised the College of Florida’s cuts to DEI spending, saying, “All who care about studying can look to Florida because the beacon of a brand new day.” However, Andrzejewski wrote, there’s “no such luck for studying at Virginia’s flagship college—based by Thomas Jefferson no much less.” UVA’s DEI staffers have been, he wrote, “costing college students and taxpayers a fortune.”

Andrzejewski’s headline numbers made it into headlines within the conservative Washington Examiner and the Each day Mail, which started its characteristically lengthy headline with “College of Virginia EXPOSED for $20M annual DEI spend on 235 workers.”

Andrzejewski wrote that it additionally “hit a number of primetime exhibits on Fox Information” and “the nightly information on the practically 200 ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox associates of Sinclair Broadcast Group,” the conservative-leaning native information community. Andrzejewski makes common appearances on The Nationwide Desk, a Sinclair-produced information program.

However under the headline of the unique article, Andrzejewski gives extra data on how OpenTheBooks got here to its figures—a strategy that makes his headline significantly much less simple than it seems.

The article begins with a graphic itemizing the highest 10 “highest paid DEI workers” subsequent to their “estimated taxpayer value.” One is Dr. Tracy M. Downs, UVA Well being’s chief variety and neighborhood engagement officer. Nevertheless, Downs can be, in line with the college’s web site, a professor and a “urologist specializing within the surgical remedy of urologic cancers” who serves sufferers. Nonetheless, OpenTheBooks labels all of his compensation, which it estimates at $405,600, as a DEI expense.

The graphic additionally exhibits the highest-paid UVA DEI workers member is Martin N. Davidson, its world chief variety officer. He makes an estimated $587,340, the graphic exhibits. So that might solely be one particular person making that a lot, not the “some” within the headline.

Davidson additionally holds different titles, together with a tenured college place because the Johnson and Higgins Professor of Enterprise Administration. He’s additionally the interim government director of the College of Virginia’s Contemplative Sciences Heart. But OpenTheBooks labeled his entire wage as a DEI expense.

Andrzejewski defended together with Davidson’s whole wage, noting to Inside Larger Ed that, amongst different issues, Davidson teaches a category referred to as Management, Variety and Leveraging Distinction. Additional,Andrzejewski mentioned, “it’s UVA itself that has the duty for the DEI accounting, they usually’ve proven horrible opacity.”

Farther down, the article reveals that OpenTheBooks included a number of workers who conduct sexual misconduct investigations and guarantee compliance with Title IX and the Individuals With Disabilities Act in its rely. These are presumably federally required positions.

On the day the article emerged, Brian Coy, UVA’s chief communications officer, informed The Washington Occasions that OpenTheBooks “appears to wildly overstate” UVA’s DEI spending and staffing ranges. Later, UVA went additional in its critique.

An April 22 rebuttal on the college’s web site prompt a serious error: OpenTheBooks had “wrongly included about 100 UVA college students who function neighborhood tutors and profession counselors.” UVA mentioned the group additionally “inaccurately transformed” part-time staff’ pay charges “from hourly seasonal roles to full-time annual jobs, leading to a substantial inflation of what they’re really paid.”

Kevin McDonald, the college’s vice chairman for DEI and neighborhood partnerships, mentioned within the rebuttal that he believes it’s clever to spend “assets to offer equal alternatives.” However, he mentioned, “strictly as a factual matter, if you happen to hear UVA spends $20 million yearly on DEI packages, together with 235 workers, that’s merely false.”

Upping the Depend

Andrzejewski hasn’t taken such criticism mendacity down. In a March 21 Substack publish, he referred to as his group “non-partisan” and questioned whether or not folks may belief Coy as a result of he had been communications director for 2 Democratic governors and the Virginia Democratic Social gathering.

As an alternative of decreasing his tally of DEI workers in response to UVA’s criticisms, Andrzejewski has gone dramatically in the other way. In Could, in Metropolis Journal, a publication of the conservative Manhattan Institute, he wrote that OpenTheBooks had newly “recognized greater than 100 extra workers throughout 80 college departments who, along with their major roles on the college, have been contributing variously as DEI deans, administrators, challenge leads, coordinators, representatives, fellows, council members, college advisers, ex officio members and even ‘JEDIs’ (Justice, Fairness, Variety, and Inclusion personnel).”

“Whereas the college refuses to be clear, we’re assured in our rely,” Andrzejewski wrote. However apparently the counting wasn’t over. “Thus far, we’ve uncovered greater than 350 UVA workers who’re propelling the college’s DEI push,” he wrote. “And we have now but to seek out all of them.” He informed Inside Larger Ed, “Our estimates are conservative.”

Thomas M. Neale, president of an anti-DEI group based by conservative UVA alumni referred to as the Jefferson Council, mentioned he reached out to OpenTheBooks final fall after listening to in regards to the group from one other council member—the daddy of an OpenTheBooks worker.

Jim Bacon, the council’s contributing editor who writes on its web site and was its government director till just lately, informed Inside Larger Ed the group “voluntarily made a contribution to OpenTheBooks” after the investigation, “in gratitude.” Neale mentioned it was a $5,000 honorarium, technically for a speech Andrzejewski gave in regards to the investigation.

Bacon wrote on the council’s web site that the council additionally “supplied help within the analysis and fact-checking” for OpenTheBooks’ preliminary article. He informed Inside Larger Ed the council has developed data of UVA’s “labyrinthine” paperwork and sought to assist OpenTheBooks perceive the knowledge they have been taking a look at. And this partnership could have led OpenTheBooks to its subsequent exposé.


Andrzejewski was a featured speaker for the Jefferson Council’s third annual dinner on April 9, together with John P. Preyer, chair of the College of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Board of Trustees—a board that might vote in Could to shift cash from funding DEI to college police. A video of Andrzejewski’s speech and Q&A session, which OpenTheBooks posted on-line, exhibits the primary query he received from the viewers was “Have you ever ever been to Chapel Hill, North Carolina?”

The particular person, unidentifiable within the video, mentioned, “I’ve received a job for you.” Andrzejewski, with amusing, mentioned, “Simply google ‘Andrzejewski’ and let’s get involved and let’s discuss.”

Preyer informed Inside Larger Ed that he couldn’t inform whether or not that was his voice within the video, however he mentioned he sat on the identical desk with Andrzejewski and requested him to look into whether or not Chapel Hill directors have been understating the variety of DEI positions and bills there. “I feel it’s factor to have third-party verification on information like that,” Preyer informed Inside Larger Ed.

Andrzejewski, requested in regards to the connection, informed Inside Larger Ed, “I’m not answering questions on our inner decision-making, whistleblowers or how we prioritize an investigation.”

However OpenTheBooks did, the next month, launch a DEI investigation on the entire UNC system, two days earlier than its Board of Governors was set to vote on repealing its DEI coverage.

The Could 21 headline on OpenTheBooks’ Substack was “College Of North Carolina System Spends $90 Million On Practically 700 Staffers Underneath The DEI Umbrella.” Conservative retailers like Nationwide Evaluate, The Each day Caller and The Washington Examiner repeated the numbers.

Andrzejewski wrote within the article that “on Wednesday, the system’s governing board could finish the controversial program that institutionalizes bias and prejudice based mostly on neo-Marxist ideas and falsehoods—corresponding to America is a structurally racist nation.”

Like with the UVA investigation, the article itself referred to as the massive numbers within the headline into query. Of the “practically 700 staffers” quantity, OpenTheBooks mentioned fewer than half have been present in what it referred to as “DEI-related roles listed on the UNC system’s payroll.” Practically 400 of the 700 staffers counted have been solely “members of DEI committees, commissions and councils,” it mentioned.

But the entire compensation for these merely serving on a DEI committee—not being paid for DEI jobs—was poured into the $90 million determine. So have been the salaries of professors educating about race, gender and different points.

Andrzejewski wrote that “we did our greatest to quantify the whole complicated of DEI, Workplace of Civil Rights, Equal Alternative, Title IX and different places of work. A few of these companies are mandated by state or federal regulation.” Requested why he included these places of work, Andrzejewski wrote to Inside Larger Ed that “now, all stakeholders have a whole image. Stakeholders can debate and determine what’s schooling muscle and what’s political fats.”

If there could also be points with how OpenTheBooks counts DEI positions and expenditures, the colleges themselves aren’t offering detailed details about what the numbers needs to be. The UNC system mentioned it doesn’t accumulate this information. Additional, there aren’t agreed-upon definitions on what ought to or shouldn’t be referred to as DEI.

What Is DEI, Anyway?

What DEI means can rely upon who’s defining it.

One UNC system spokesperson, when requested for the system’s DEI positions and bills for them, wrote in an e mail that “the system workplace doesn’t accumulate that information.” The spokesperson emailed a hyperlink to a Raleigh Information & Observer article that supplied self-reported numbers from a lot of the state’s public universities. That article’s numbers have been a lot decrease than OpenTheBooks’, however the definition used was individuals who “spend no less than half of their work time on the [DEI] efforts.”

A 2022 article from the conservative North Carolina–based mostly suppose tank the James G. Martin Heart for Educational Renewal got here up with a a lot decrease determine than OpenTheBooks’ $90 million, 700 staffers quantity. The Martin Heart reported “over $11 million going in the direction of DEI workers salaries inside the UNC System,” although its linked report says these numbers have been just for “administrative” salaries.

UVA has supplied its personal determine, saying there are round “55 devoted DEI positions with a complete annual funds of $5.8 million,” not the 235 and $20 million figures OpenTheBooks’ headline prompt. UVA despatched Inside Larger Ed a 2023 PowerPoint presentation with a graphic that mentioned its calculation excluded salaries for college members “on administrative appointment who’re paid based mostly on their college position and market worth.”

Bacon, with the Jefferson Council, mentioned, “Everybody comes up with a barely completely different quantity as a result of finally all of it boils all the way down to semantics.” However the numerical variations have been vast, even amongst conservative organizations, they usually’ve been a lot decrease than OpenTheBooks’ calculations—or the headlines they generate.

A 2021 Heritage Basis report, which excluded “workers listed as primarily having duty for making certain compliance with authorized obligations,” concluded there have been 94 DEI personnel at UVA. A report from the conservative Virginia Affiliation of Students and funded partly by the Jefferson Council counted 77 DEI directors in 2021 receiving $6.9 million in compensation. The Affiliation of Students mentioned that was up considerably from 2020.

OpenTheBooks has inserted itself into the void left in lieu of extra detailed numbers agreed upon between DEI proponents and opponents. Its numbers elevate the query of whether or not DEI bills and positions are even definable.

“Finally, there’s no method of figuring out,” Bacon mentioned. “Calculating any quantity,” he mentioned, entails a “limitless variety of worth judgments.”

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