Op-Ed Submission by W. Lee Hansen, Professor Emeritus, Economics, UW-Madison. UW-Madison Chancellor Blank's new 2020 Diversity Plan, described in her July 8, 2020 blog entry, is more disturbing than suggested by the bland front-page headline: "Blank targets racial climate" (Wisconsin State Journal, July 16, 2020).
The Chancellor’s array of proposed new "commitments" to diversity reflects her response to recent Black Lives Matter protests and demands from both black and white students, as well as some faculty and staff. She confesses that her response also reflects some personal guilt about benefiting from White Privilege. Her view no doubt accounts for selection of the keynote speaker for the Fall 2000 Diversity Forum. The speaker will be Robin DiAngelo, author of The New York Times “best seller,” White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. For a preview of DiAngelo’s approach, readers can read the book reviews, including a long essay analyzing the flawed research on which her book is based.
The Chancellor’s view on these matters is no reason to divert UW-Madison from its long-standing mission of sifting and winnowing in the search for knowledge to a new focus on social engineering, such as reducing racial inequalities and promoting social justice. But her views should be of concern to all faculty and staff as well as students. The nature of her proposals will solidify the already entrenched diversity bureaucracy that is now centered in the Department of Equity, Inclusion, and Educational Achievement. Its members are being given authority to “train,”” students, student leaders, staff members, and the faculty on a wide range of diversity-related topics, among them: culture, identify, difference, race, inclusion, marginalization, inclusive community-building skills, implicit bias, microaggressions, stereotypes, and on and on.
The Chancellor provides no convincing evidence that any of her proposed "commitments" are capable of dealing effectively with either these larger social problems she mentions. Or that the “training” will be effective in promoting a more welcoming campus climate. The rest of her new plan does not make sense. How likely will the addition of a batch of new programs succeed in achieving what the many already-operating minority student programs have not been able to do? Interviews conducted among black students reveal their skepticism that these new “commitments” will produce any substantial change. The faculty should be greatly concerned about the effects of these programs on academic freedom and freedom of expression.
In her statement the Chancellor refers to a list of 50 briefly-described, on-going minority student programs, labeled as “diversity and inclusion” programs. She says nothing about the effectiveness of any of these programs in making the campus a more welcoming place for all students, particularly minority students. If any of these programs have been successful, we surely would have heard about them by now. Nor does she tell us anything about how many staff members are employed in managing these programs, many of whom are minorities. While admitting her new "commitments" will require more resources, she says nothing about the cost of either her new programs or the long list of existing programs.
Her list of new “commitments” will almost certainly be expanded following issuance of two new demands by UW-Madison athletes. One, purely symbolic, is to change from white to black the large “W” on all athletic team uniforms. The second is to establish a special $2 million scholarship program for “students of color,” apparently referring to a new designation for such students who are now labeled BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People Of Color). Further demands may be coming from student athletes. Based on her past actions in dealing with black student demands, we can expect the Chancellor to quickly include these new demands in her “commitments.”
Most members of the university community have no idea about the substantial costs of operating the many existing minority student programs. Estimating their annual costs is difficult because now-retired University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross several years ago terminated the collection and publication of minority program expenditure data. Nevertheless, I have been able to construct a rough estimate of UW-Madison minority program expenditures for 2019-20, an estimate that includes several expenditure categories omitted from past state-mandated expenditure reports.
Estimated minority student program expenditures for 2019-2020 amount to approximately $50 million. Based on Fall 2019 targeted minority enrollment of 4,807, this means UW-Madison is this year spending an average of over $10,000 for each targeted minority student on programs to promote diversity and inclusion. Most of these costs go to pay non-faculty staff members who manage these programs. The $50 million estimate excludes several other major cost categories, the most important being the costs of hiring minority faculty and academic staff, the costs to students of meeting the one-semester Ethnic Studies Requirement, and the additional costs of applying the “holistic” admissions process to the more than 42,000 applicants for Fall 2020 entry to UW-Madison.
If, as my analysis has shown, the admission and enrollment of approximately one quarter of targeted minority students can be attributed to the “holisitic” admissions policy, this means the spending on minority students who might not have been admitted on the basis of their academic records, jumps to approximately $40,000 per academic year.
Another approach to the costs of minority student programs is to cumulate the annual costs of these programs over the span of years when minority program expenditure data were collected, going back to the mid-1980s, and then adding my cost estimates for the several most recent years. The cumulative cost of past minority student programs, expressed in 2019-20 dollars, is estimated to total approximately $1,000,000,000. This surprisingly large total of one billion dollars, like that for the 2019-20 estimate, excludes the same categories of other minority student program expenditures. In recent years the estimated costs of minority programs have continued to increase despite deep cuts in the UW-Madison budget.
One reason for the heavy diversity expenditures is the need to provide academic and related services to a number of targeted minority students admitted under the UW “holistic” admissions policy, a policy designed to increase minority student enrollment. These students tend to be less well-prepared academically than most other students admitted on the basis of their past academic records. Here is a paradox. The policy to increase minority enrollment by adopting a “holistic admissions” process creates the need for additional minority programs to deal with the side effects of that policy. Sadly, her new programs have not been systematically evaluated to determine their effectiveness.
These lingering problems have not been solved even as the UW-Madison continues to maintain financial aid programs, such as the Lawton Undergraduate Minority Retention Grants, that limit eligibility based on race, ethnicity, and national origin. UW-Madison officials know that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits such discrimination. They have known this for more than 15 years, ever since in March 2005 when I filed a complaint about these violations to the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights; somehow, UW lawyers have fought off OCR attempts to rule on the validity of my complaints. Yet these programs continue. Where is the accountability for such an important policy decision?
Shouldn’t UW-Madison student athletes be informed that by restricting scholarship eligibility to “students of color,” long described as “targeted minority students” their proposed $2 million scholarship program violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act? Or will the Chancellor and campus administrators move ahead to implement this demand despite its illegality?
The Chancellor’s proposed $10 million fund to recruit a more diverse group of students, faculty, and staff looks as if its funding will be restricted to minority students and faculty members, there by discriminating on the basis of race, ethnicity, and national origin. This would represent another violation of Title VI unless UW lawyers can find a way to deflect application of the law.
To summarize, every new crisis generates a demand for more minority student programs, a demand gladly met by the campus administration. New programs are piled on old programs, making it impossible to know what works and what does not work. Meanwhile, UW-Madison continues to violate Title vI of the Civil Rights Act of 1954 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, and national origin. Despite its zeal in the promotion of diversity and inclusion, the UW-Madison should not adopt new programs that are in clear violation of fed
(AS Note: the rest of this entry was missing from the text Lee sent and needs to be filled in)
About the Author
At age 92 I decided to showcase my recent and current writings on a variety of topics outside of my career interests as an economist. My wife Sally’s dementia, my experiences of war, and my interests in improving higher education all compel me to write.
For most of the last decade I maintained a low profile, necessitated by my wife Sally's suffering from a decade-long siege of vascular dementia. After she passed away several years ago I wrote about our experience, in the belief that this would be helpful to the many others who suffer from dementia and their family caregivers. I am currently seeking a publisher for my book manuscript: The Forgotten: Dementia and the Right to Die.
Over the past few years I began working on several other writing projects that are described more fully elsewhere in my blog. These include a nearly-completed book manuscript on my "expected proficiencies approach to the college major'' as a vehicle for reinvigorating liberal education. I continue to write on the shortcomings of UW-Madison's affirmative action policies and programs that over the years have been renamed "diversity and inclusion" policies and programs.
Within two weeks of my graduation from UW-Madison in June 1950, the Korean War broke out. I was drafted and expected to be sent to Korea to join our fighting forces there. But instead I was sent to Turkey for 18 months. How lucky I was. I am also writing a memoir of my Korean War military experience when I served as an U.S. Army adviser in our military aid program in Turkey.
Until I began branching out beyond economics, I failed to realize what a profound effect the Great Depression and World War II had on me as I grew up. I have already captured some of these recollections, with more of them to follow.
With that introduction, I turn you over to my blog entries as well as my other writing projects described more fully elsewhere in my blog. Best wishes ~ W. Lee Hansen
Dear Friends: I want you to have an opportunity to sign up to receive my periodic postings. Instructions for doing so will be coming soon.
Award-winning author W. Lee Hansen, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Full bio.