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The Fallacy of DEI

The Decline of Moral Values in Society

I have blogged many times before about the decline of moral values in America. We are falling off a cliff in that regard. Let’s face it: We have lost our moral compass as a society and it’s likely to get worse before it gets better. Just consider the following:

  • Gun violence in our streets has risen by epic proportions.
  • Racial injustice persists in our society.
  • Black Americans have been gunned down by police for inexplicable reasons even with the #blacklivesmatter movement.
  • Sexual harassment in the workplace has not been abated even after the #MeToo movement.
  • Sexual assaults on college campuses have been increasing over time.
  • Social media continues to post inappropriate images that can affect the behavior of young Americans.
  • Politicians continue to say one thing but do something else – just to get elected—and some engage in inappropriate behavior.
  • The behavior of “heroes” in sports and entertainment is frequently found wanting.

Most of these offensive actions raise questions about whether education in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is working. More will be said about this later.

Recent Protests on College Campuses

To make matters worse, during the past few weeks we witnessed protests on college campuses by those speaking out against the attack on Palestinians in Gaza following the horrific events of October 7 when about 1,200 Jews were killed and about 240 people were taken as hostages by Hamas.. These protesters have a right to protest---peacefully---but it hasn’t always been so. In some cases, Jewish students were blocked from access to campuses, made the brunt of hateful speech, and even physically attacked. The lack of moral values is, in part, what is behind all these actions.

The situation would be equally concerning if protesters spoke out about the violent attacks in Gaza but were harassed or otherwise mistreated by those supporting Israel. Muslims have the same right to protest as Jews---but peacefully and without harassing others.

The underlying problem is we have forgotten The Golden Rule, which is to treat others the way we want to be treated. How can either protesting group say that they would want those with contrary views to act the way they act?

Is DEI Education Working? DEI

I’ve considered what has been going on from the lens of DEI. As a college professor, I have started to wonder about the value of DEI education. Have the protests against Jewish students met the “Diversity” and “Inclusion” standards? I think not. Let’s examine what they mean.

The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means to treat each person as unique and to recognize our individual differences. It means understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of individuality.

An inclusive society is one that overrides differences of race, gender, class, generation, and geography, and ensures inclusion and equality of opportunity, as well as capability of all members of the society to determine an agreed set of social institutions that govern social interaction.

It seems to me that an inclusive society was the last thing protesters thought about in deciding how to deal with the terrible events of October 7 and thereafter.

DEI Policies Being Reviewed at Colleges and Universities

Some colleges and universities are starting to examine the value of DEI programs. Last month the University of North Carolina System committee voted to repeal diversity goals and jobs at 17 campuses across North Carolina. UNC at Chapel Hill’s Board of Trustees have dismantled its DEI programs and transferred $2.3 million in funding instead to public safety and campus police on the heels of sweeping anti-Israel demonstrations. UNC voted on May 14, 2024, to eliminate DEI hiring practices. The diversion of the money comes a month after the entire UNC system moved to repeal and replace a DEI policy in favor of a policy that it says maintains "institutional neutrality." The full Board of Governors will meet again in late May in Raleigh. If the policy change is passed then, it will become final and effective immediately.

"My personal opinion is that there’s administrative bloat in the university," Board Chair David Boliek told The News & Observer, anticipating some jobs would be scrapped as a result. "Any cuts in administration and diverting of dollars to rubber-meets-the-road efforts like public safety and teaching is important."

UNC will join the ranks of other notable public universities that have stripped diversity spending, such as the University of Florida in Gainesville, which announced in a March memo it was reallocating funds to faculty recruitment.

Some universities, including UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State University, include diversity in their mission or vision statements.

At NC State, for example, the university has a stated vision to “be known as a diverse, equitable and inclusive community that has a transformative impact on society and advances the greater good.”

These are worthwhile statements and commitments by universities, but it does not mean that DEI should become a separate academic unit thereby diverting needed funds elsewhere, such as lowering student tuition. Questions also exist about the value of teaching about DEI. Instead, universities should include it in their orientation programs and special events held on campus.

Gallup Poll

The underlying problem and cause of the failure of DEI to take hold is a decline of moral values in society. In a 2023 Gallup Poll, 54% of respondents said the state of moral values in U.S. is poor; 33% only fair; 10% good; and 1% excellent. And 83% think U.S. moral values are getting worse, up five points from last year and 16 points since 2021. The previous high of 82% was recorded in 2007, when 44% of Americans rated moral values as poor. Currently, 12% of Americans think moral values are getting better, which is the lowest percentage since 2008.

Pessimism about moral values edged up in the past year across party groups. Republicans’ outlook for deteriorating values is now at a new high of 97%, while 73% of Democrats and 80% of independents think they are getting worse. Republicans’ pessimism about moral values has been on the rise since Joe Biden took office in 2021. While Democrats’ and independents’ outlooks improved in 2021, they quickly reverted to levels seen during Donald Trump’s presidency.

Revisiting the Value of DEI

The fallacy of DEI is it should work but only if we embrace moral values in society. The problem is the underlying moral values that should drive behavior consistent with DEI treatment has long since gone from society and, in my opinion, is unlikely to change in the future. We are a “What’s in it for Me” society, driven by the pursuit of self-interest, often without regard for others. We no longer seem to value kindness/compassion/understanding/and empathy, the underpinning of treating others equally.

The lingering question is why are colleges and universities spending so much money on creating an administrative structure and hiring faculty and staff to teach DEI when students and others do not embrace these values in their daily behavior? Indeed, in some cases the universities themselves seem to ignore the message of DEI.

Posted by Steven Mintz, Ph.D., aka Ethics Sage, on May 21, 2024. You can sign up for his newsletter and learn more about his activities at: