Intersectionality, microaggressions and ‘whitesplaining’ are part of NC State University ‘Diversity Training’

NSJ obtained materials for once-mandatory training and over $150,000 in invoices

An image of an approved invoice is featured in this photo. A.P. Dillon, North State Journal

RALEIGH — Earlier this year, North Carolina State University (NCSU) required all students, faculty and staff to take a “Diversity Training.”

The NCSU mandatory diversity training includes topics such as “whitesplaining,” toxic masculinity, microaggressions, and unconscious bias. Also included is the topic of “intersectionality,” a core component of the highly controversial Critical Race Theory. Many of these topics were found to be incorporated in a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion survey for students to fill out.

Through a records request, North State Journal was able to obtain invoices related to the training and many of the training materials. The training information resides on the website of NCSU’s Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED), which records show is the office where the idea for the training originated.

According to the NCSU OIED website, all staff, faculty, graduate and professional students are to complete two courses: “Managing Bias” and “Diversity: Inclusion in the Modern Workplace.”

The training is online only and “promotes interpersonal awareness and an inclusive workplace culture.” The course “uses the unique experiences of real people to explore key concepts such as identity, power, privilege and communication.”

The undergraduate course, titled “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Students” allegedly is to help students gain the “information and skills necessary to create a respectful and welcoming environment for everyone.” The topics to be covered include “identity, selfhood, imposter syndrome, identity transitions, power, privilege, oppression, bias, respect, allyship and self-care.”

NCSU undergraduate students complete the training using an “online EverFi module accessed through REPORTER.” REPORTER is the NCSU portal used to register for non-credit-bearing courses and activities.

Late last year and early in 2021, undergraduates were sent an email from NCSU’s administration to complete an online diversity training course. The email message stated, “This training is required for all,” but it appears the training is no longer mandatory.

An update was added to the NCSU Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity website that reads, “As of March 2021, students are strongly encouraged but not required to take the training.” The update was added during the same month conservative college watchdog outlet Campus Reform first reported on faculty and students being forced to take the training.

The email to undergraduates also references a message from NCSU Chancellor W. Randolph Woodson and other campus officials. That message cites alleged racist comments on social media but does not identify any particular individual due to privacy laws.

“These incidents remind us that we fall far short of where we aim to be. We need to do more and do better,” Woodson wrote.

Two organizations were engaged by NCSU related to the Diversity Training, EverFi and DiversityEDU.

Everfi is a consulting company based in Washington, D.C. According to the company’s profile, it has roughly 550 employees across various locations. EverFi produces Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) training for leadership roles, staff, faculty and students.

An invoice for $38,000 was among the records obtained by North State Journal from Everfi to NCSU dated Aug. 14, 2020. Services on the invoice included a Campus-wide Diversity and Inclusion Suite, Single Sign-On (SSO), and API (Application Program Interface). The contract between NCSU and EverFi includes total services costs of $114,000.

DiversityEDU is based in New York City and is described by Dun & Bradstreet, a business analytics company, as being part of the “Social Advocacy Organizations Industry.” The company has around eight employees and in 2019 expanded its diversity training into K-12 schools.

The contract between NCSU and DiversityEDU cites delivering a “suite of online courses, guides and other learning materials” for “engaging students, faculty, and other professionals in growing diversity and inclusive culture within their institution or company.”

The fee schedule built into the DiversityEDU contract also includes one year of annual licensing and fees for 500 faculty/staff at a rate of $11,500 with an additional fee of $10 for every user over 500. It also includes modification fees of $1,800 and $2,500 for a facilitator’s guide.

The letter from DiversityEDU accompanying the contract states that “the goal of this training is to provide introductory information in diversity, microaggressions and unconscious bias” to the NCSU faculty and staff.

The records obtained by North State Journal also included an email sent to NCSU by Susan K. Burgess, chief compliance officer at UNC Charlotte. In the email, Burgess asks about DiversityEDU and faculty compliance with the diversity program. Responding to Burgess was Stephanie Helms Pickett, associate vice provost for inclusive excellence & strategic practice within the NSCU Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity.

Burgess asked if there was an “escalation process” for employees who had not completed the training. Pickett responded that there was no “official” escalation process and was unaware of any action taken to date for those who had not complied.

Pickett also told Burgess that as of Feb. 25, 2021, “2,060 instructors of record (faculty instructing) completed DiversityEDU out of 2,807 assigned.”

Pickett also told Burgess that she believed completion of the training “will be up for discussion during the performance appraisal” of employees. The outline for performance included in the conversation between Pickett and Burgess appraisals stated that employees may be “subject to disciplinary action,” but Pickett noted that “action has yet to be determined.”

The number of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) departments like NCSU’s has exploded in recent years. DEI departments also employ a large number of staff. According to a new report, “the average university has 45.1 people tasked with promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

The report by Jay Greene, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy; and James Paul, a University of Arkansas doctoral fellow, looks at the DEI bloat compared to academic disciplines.

The findings and discussion suggest that “rather than being an effective tool for welcoming students from different backgrounds, DEI personnel may be better understood as a signal of adherence to ideological, political, and activist goals.”

The study conducted by Greene and Pail looked at DEI bloat at 65 universities which represent “16 percent of all students in four-year institutions in the United States.”

Among those 65 universities, four are North Carolina schools: Duke, NCSU, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) and Wake Forest.

While the University of Michigan has the largest number of DEI employees with 163, the report listed Duke as having 57, NCSU with 44, UNC with 53 and Wake Forest with 24.

All four landed in the upper half of the list when it came to the number of DEI staff per 100 faculty members. Overall, NCSU has 3.2 DEI personnel for every 100 faculty members, landing them 33 out of the 65 schools included in the report.

According to the findings, NCSU’s DEI personnel outnumbers history department personnel (32) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) staff by a ratio of 4.4 to 1. At UNC, there are 13.3 times as many DEI staff as ADA compliance staff.

Additionally, the report suggests further research needed into what DEI offices are actually doing and that “much of the programming DEI personnel offer tends to lack diversity of viewpoints—and may have the effect of dividing more than including.” Along that same vein, among Greene and Paul’s recommendations is for state legislatures, boards of higher education, and university trustees to investigate the cost and resources “devoted to DEI personnel at the universities that they oversee and subsidize.”

About A.P. Dillon 509 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_