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As David Frum notes in The Atlantic, over the past 18 months 90 percent of American colleges and universities have hired “chief diversity officers,” part of an “already thriving industry” long apparent in California. As Heather MacDonald observed, though facing state and federal funding cuts in 2012, the University of California San Diego hired its first vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion, at a starting salary of $250,000. In 2010 UC San Francisco appointed its first vice chancellor of diversity and outreach, with a starting salary of $270,000. “Each of these new posts,” MacDonald wrote, “is wildly redundant as armies of diversity functionaries already lard UC’s bloated bureaucracy.” To understand why the diversity industry is a waste of money, taxpayers need to dial back two decades.
On November 5, 1996, Californians voted 54 to 46 percent to approve Proposition 209, the California Civil Rights Initiative: “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” Public colleges and universities remained highly diverse and inclusive, as they were before. Bureaucrats could still take affirmative action to help needy students, but they could no longer discriminate against some groups to impose the politically correct dogma that all institutions must reflect the ethnic proportions of the population. This dogma, not part of state law or the Constitution, ignores personal differences, effort, and choice, and the reality that statistical disparities are the rule, not the exception.
After the ban on preferences took effect, as Thomas Sowell noted in Intellectuals and Race, blacks and Hispanics with degrees in science, technology, math, and engineering rose 51 percent, and the number of doctorates earned by such students rose 25 percent. That happened without input from University of California’s surging army of diversity bureaucrats, who don’t teach. So like David Frum, taxpayers might wonder, “what do these administrators do?” They waste money, lard up an already bloated bureaucracy, and make higher education increasingly expensive.