Truths About DEI on College Campuses

Today, the USC Race and Equity Center released a new report in response to politicized attacks on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in higher education. Truths About DEI on College Campuses: Evidence-Based Expert Responses to Politicized Misinformation, the 62-page document, was produced by Shaun Harper, our center’s founder and executive director.

University Professor and Provost Professor in the Rossier School of Education, Price School of Public Policy, and Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, Harper has been at the forefront of efforts to counter misinformation, disinformation, exaggerations, and lies about DEI in educational institutions and businesses. “This important new report is just one additional way our center is leveraging its research, resources, reputation, and networks to fight back against those who are aiming to further divide Americans and ultimately destroy our democracy,” he says.

Last summer, our center launched the National DEI Defense Fund, which helps students, families, and educators across the country who are negatively impacted by the elimination and defunding of DEI initiatives. The report highlights four universities that are in the crosshairs of such politicized attacks: University of Virginia, University of Florida, University of Louisville, and the University of Wisconsin System.

On March 7, the U.S. House of Representatives held a two-hour hearing titled, “Divisive, Excessive, Ineffective: The Real Impact of DEI on College Campuses,” which inspired Harper to unite 11 other highly-respected experts on DEI in higher education for rapid responses to the voluminous inaccuracies that Republican congresspersons and witnesses conveyed on Capitol Hill. Less than two weeks later, our center is releasing this helpful compendium of evidence-based essays.

In addition to Harper, these scholars contributed to the report:

Mitchell J. Chang, Ph.D., professor of education and Asian American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Chang also is UCLA’s interim Vice Provost for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

Eddie R. Cole, Ph.D., associate professor of education and history at the University of California, Los Angeles. Cole also is the Joy Foundation Fellow at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute. He is author of the book, The Campus Color Line: College Presidents and the Struggle for Black Freedom (Princeton University Press, 2020).

Lori Patton Davis, Ph.D., professor of education at The Ohio State University. Davis was the first Black woman president of the Association for the Study of Higher Education. She was inducted into the National Academy of Education in 2022.

Liliana M. Garces, Ed.D., W.K. Kellogg Professor in the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin. Garces also holds courtesy appointments at the UT School of Law and the Center for Mexican American Studies.

Joy Gaston Gayles, Ph.D., Alumni Association Distinguished Graduate Professor and head of the Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development Department at North Carolina State University. Gayles also is a past president of the Association for the Study of Higher Education.

Toby S. Jenkins, Ph.D., professor in the College of Education at the University of South Carolina. Jenkins also is Associate Provost for Faculty Development. Her seven books include, The Hip-Hop Mindset: Success Strategies for Educators and Other Professionals (Teachers College Press, 2023).

Walter M. Kimbrough, Ph.D., executive in residence at the USC Race and Equity Center. Kimbrough served as the 7th president of Philander Smith College and the 12th president of Dillard University, two HBCUs.

Julie J. Park, Ph.D., associate professor in the College of Education at the University of Maryland. Park’s books include, Race on Campus: Debunking Myths with Data (Harvard Education Press, 2018) and When Diversity Drops: Race, Religion, and Affirmative Action in Higher Education (Rutgers University Press, 2013).

Victor B. Sáenz, Ph.D., L.D. Haskew Centennial Professor and Associate Dean for Student Success, Community Engagement, and Administration in the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin. Sáenz also is co-founder and executive director of Project MALES (Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success), a UT research and mentoring initiative.

Shawn M. Smith, M.D., a physician at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Smith also is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Lisa Wolf-Wendel, Ph.D., Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor of Higher Education at the University of Kansas. Wolf-Wendel also is Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies in KU’s School of Education and Human Sciences. She served as the 2012-13 president of the Association for the Study of Higher Education.

Beyond widely disseminating it through our center’s contact databases and social media platforms, we also submitted this collection of papers to the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development for inclusion in the hearing record. A grant from Spencer Foundation is generously supporting our center’s DEI defense activities, including the production and dissemination of this report.

“We invite Americans to use this document to dispel ridiculous, unsubstantiated claims about DEI,” Harper added. “We hope these truths are helpful, politicized lies are not.”