SCIENCE: University ‘Diversity Officers’ Aren’t Really Doing Anything But Making College More Expensive

Evie Fordham | Politics and Health Care Reporter

The hiring of chief diversity officers by U.S. universities is not doing anything to increase the diversity within their faculty, concluded an August working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

“We are unable to find significant statistical evidence that preexisting growth in diversity for underrepresented racial/ethnic minority groups is affected by the hiring of an executive level diversity officer for new tenure and non-tenure track hires, faculty hired with tenure, or for university administrator hires,” the researchers wrote in the working paper.

Individual colleges and universities hire chief diversity officers (CDOs) to increase minority representation among their faculty. The U.S. college student population “has become more diverse,” but the diversity among faculty has lagged, the researchers wrote.

“The movement to hire CDOs is gaining momentum,” the researchers wrote. “We find that in the 2016 academic year, more than two-thirds of the major U.S. universities we study had a CDO in place.”

But the explosion of the number of administrators, including CDOs, has made college more expensive without making it more valuable to students, according to a 2016 article in The Atlantic.

These higher education institutions want CDOs to increase faculty diversity for many reasons. The idea that students will engage more in classes with professors of their race or ethnicity is one of the “most frequently cited benefits” of faculty diversity, according to the working paper. The researchers also mentioned the role model theory that students are more likely to excel if they can observe someone who looks like them achieving their dreams.

The paper also pointed out that there is very little research on the effects of hiring CDOs. (RELATED: Former Silicon Valley Darling Elizabeth Holmes’ Fraud-Filled Company Is Dissolving)

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) examined certain categories of four-year universities with more than 4,000 students for the analysis. NBER is a self-proclaimed “unbiased” nonprofit research firm.

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