DEI Presentation at Tomorrow’s UVa Board of Visitors Meeting Attempts to Deflect the Discussion

by James C. Sherlock

Tomorrow, June 2, there will be a meeting of the Board of Visitors at the University of Virginia.

The University has published a preview of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion presentation to the Board.

That presentation is designed quite clearly to deflect the conversation from the true issues.  It attempts to:

  • center the discussions on issues the university president wishes to defend; and
  • define terms in ways he wishes to defend them.

I offer some questions and observations.

Slide: Racial and gender diversity at UVA are relatively new – and our DEI work is even newer.  The presentation is off to a weak start. Setting the stage for the DEI discussion with race and gender is a deflection.

For example, white students have been underrepresented in the undergraduate and graduate school populations at UVa since at least 2010 as compared to whites in the population as a whole in both the United States and Virginia. Females outnumber males in the UVa student population by roughly 60% to 40%.

Those are facts.  They raise the question of the true reason for the recent expansion of DEI bureaucracy.

Let’s see if we can find it.

Slide: Defining DEI.  In this slide diversity includes diversity of:

  • Religious beliefs
  • Background and professional experience
  • Political ideology and point of view

That is the last heard of those bullet points in the presentation.  The rest is about race and ethnicity.

Yet lack of diversity of political ideology and points of view are the major concern of most critics.

Roles of the DEI bureaucracy.  Here is a definition internal to the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (A&S) of the role of its own internal DEI bureaucracy:

Working with the Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Directors of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DDEIs) will assist in implementing best practices and serve as a point of contact in their department/program for issues relating to diversity, inclusion, and equity. Such issues include but are not limited to the following:

  • Hiring and retention of faculty (and, where applicable, postdoctoral scholars);
  • Graduate student recruitment, retention, and curriculum;
  • Undergraduate student recruitment, retention, and curriculum;
  • Staff hiring, treatment, and retention; and
  • Cultivating a diverse, inclusive, and equitable departmental climate.

How does that square with the anodyne definitions and examples of DEI offered on the slide?  It does not.  Not even close.

Equity achievements include “Gender-specific uniforms for members of our facilities team”?  An example of Inclusion is “food in the dining halls”?


Slide: UVA has 55 dedicated DEI positions, with a total annual budget of $5.8M. Interesting, but dollar cost is irrelevant to the core issue of suppression of freedom of speech and points of view.

An important note is here:

+ Excludes salary cost for positions held by faculty on administrative appointment who are paid based on their faculty role and market value

The total positions do not include, as acknowledged by that note, the 29 Departmental DEI (DDEI) positions in A&S.

Those positions in turn show that political oversight of hiring, admissions and curricula descends to the departmental level, which is unmentioned in the brief.

Slide: Measuring Success: Diversity.  All of the displayed statistical progress concerns race.  It was made without the current DEI bureaucracy, so why impose it and what can it add?

The newly and greatly expanded DEI bureaucracy is a solution in search of a problem in an overwhelmingly progressive university.

But those progressives are so territorial and so unsure of the persuasiveness of their arguments that they want no remnant of anyone with whom they disagree politically.

That is the biggest concern of most.  Yet the slide shows only racial diversity, which already exists.

Freedom of speech and diversity of viewpoint cannot be had with day-to-day DEI political oversight at every level of the university.

“Inviting speakers with differing viewpoints” is a good idea but does not affect the university climate for diversity of viewpoint in recruiting, admissions, hiring and the day-to-day conduct of the school.

Inside the University, DEI expansion down to the department level reflects Maoist thought reform tactics.

The People’s Daily called for teachers and college staff to “arm oneself with the thought of Marxism–Leninism” and to “throw away the vulgar perspectives of individualism and liberalism, and the cultural thought of European-American reactionary bourgeoisie.”

The Cavalier Daily, seizing on the historical parallel, considers the role of DEI to be combatting oppression. There can be no limits in that job.

After which the editorial offers that they are discouraged that DEI has been “politicized.”  The editors must not have taken a course on irony.

Racial diversity is clearly where the presentation wants the discussion to focus.

Statistical representation as seen here can only be considered a measure of “fair” or “equitable” enrollment or hiring if both words are defined to mean “equal” to raw percentages of the population.  So let’s go from there.

There are inconvenient statistics not presented.

  • In the 2010 census of America, “White Alone” were 72.4% of the population. In 2020, 61.6%.  (See here. )
  • In the 2010 census of Virginia, white alone was 68.6%, in 2020 60.3%. (See here and select Virginia and any county to bring up Virginia numbers).
  • White American representation in the UVa undergraduate population dropped from 60.6% of undergraduates in 2010 to 52.3% in 2022.  White American representation in the graduate school population dropped from 60.2% of the population in 2010 to 51.6% in 2020.

Category definition adjustments.  Adjusting for the differences in category definitions between the Census and the UVa demographics would add 240 undergraduates to the 2022 White totals of 8,754, equaling 8993 of 16,793, or 53.6% of undergraduates who were white.  In the 2020 census, 60.3 % of the Virginia population was white alone.

After adding in the Hispanic whites, we still see white underrepresentation in the UVa undergraduate population. The adjustments had a smaller impact on the graduate student numbers because Hispanics are less represented there (5.29%) than in the undergraduate schools (7.06%).

Thus whites are underrepresented in the UVa undergraduate and graduate school populations and have been since at least 2010.

I don’t consider those data dispositive, but it is the University presentation that brings the numbers up.  They forgot to offer demographic context.

Bottom line.  This presentation represents a very weak try.

Race and gender are exposed by the data as excuses for enforcing political control.

The race issue is rapidly disappearing in the demographics of the country. That will soon leave only political views for the DEI to police.

The Visitors are far too experienced to let themselves be guided by this attempt to deflect the true issues or be insulted by it.

I wish we could be there.

Update, the category definition adjustments were added at 15:26 on June 1.

Update at 17:06 on June 1. The author is on distribution for Census Bureau postings. The one  that just arrived seems to provide good information for tomorrow’s DEI discussion, so it was included.