Letter to the Editor: What do diversity office staff members actually do?

To the editor:

It’s a trick question!

“How successful are these initiatives at carrying out their goals?”

“Wellllll, son, that all depends …. on just zackly what those ‘goals’ might happen to be, now, don’t it?!”

Let us look at Michigan, one of those highlighted by the study for their massively disproportionate DIES staffing, to try to answer that question.

We begin by Googling ‘Diversity, UM’ and reach the DIES home page (interesting, isn’t it, that the acronym is adjusted to avoid using DIES?)….and an ‘About’ linkage which tells us that in 2016 a 5 Year Strategic DIES Plan was formed.  We click and arrive at the Strategic Plan which then tells us “significant progress has been made”, as per the Report.

So we click the Report… and are taken to an intermediate page which links to the Report AND an Executive Summary.  Click, and we arrive at a singing chorus and more links, one of which is “Learn about the Plan” (which sounds promising).

Click the “Learn About” and we go to the DIES Framework … and there, for the first time we find the word, GOALS.  We still don’t know what they are, but we’re getting closer.

Click, Diversity, and voila!  Here it is, 7 levels in:  “…challenge  bias…commit to equal opportunity”  Hmmmm.

Maybe there’s something new & exciting under Inclusivity?  There the goal is much wordier, “ensure diversity is welcomed…and every individual feels a sense of belonging”

And finally Equity:  “.. commit to increasing diversity” (they then list 13 different types of approved diversity).

So back to the original question:  what does the 163 person DIES Staff actually do there at Michigan?  What is their specific goal to accomplish these generic goals?  In a very Monty-Pythonesque way, the DIES Staff plan is to “provide leadership for implementing the plan”  And what was that Plan again:  1)  Be Good (don’t discriminate)… 2) Be Diverse   3)  Be Welcoming.

Of course Michigan has 46,000 students and about 27,000 faculty & staff, all of whom are the people actually charged with the responsibility to 1) Be Good…2) Be Diverse…and 3) Be Welcoming.  So what does the DIES staff actually do?

The 163 DIES’ers must watch and count everyone else….just to be sure they’re doing what they’re expected (and being paid — in the case of the 27K staff)  to do.

So, “are they successful”?

Sure they are.  And even if ‘they’re not’, they are!  So what if climate surveys indicate people don’t feel welcome?  That’s not the fault of the 163!  That’s the fault of the 73K!  (especially the 27K who administrate the 46K).  So what if we still can’t hit our diversity quotas?  That’s the fault of the Admissions Group…or the HR Group….or the Department Chairs and Deans who are still hung-up on Quality and Qualifications.  Maybe they need to be scolded more frequently by the 163?  Maybe they need another Diversity Seminar?  Maybe more programming or some more posters?

The truth is — in every case, at every school — that DIES Staff is bloat.  They are responsible for nothing.  They generate no revenue  They increase cost.  They drive waste and they build inefficiency as they add DIES double-checks to everything that moves.

And every time DIES works to highlight how diverse and special this particular group of Sneetches with Stars might be, the Sneetches without feel that much worse.  If that’s not success, I don’t know what is!