Universities Spending Big on Social Justice Initiatives

Schools across country dole out thousands to student-led diversity programs

Students at UC Santa Cruz, one of the universities that circulated the "microaggressions" list / Facebook
Students at UC Santa Cruz / Facebook
November 8, 2017

Universities across the country are doling out thousands of dollars a year for diversity peer leadership initiatives that recruit select students to run social justice, inclusion, and multicultural programming.

The University Counseling Center at Grand Valley State University has hired five students to work a minimum of 50 hours per semester to "engage in responsible dialogue and action around multiculturalism and social justice," as well as offer mental health and "holistic wellness" education. Students will net $700 at the end of their year-long commitment.

Auburn University's Office of Inclusion and Diversity (OID) has launched a program that will train and pay a 12-member "Student Excellence Team" to serve as "ambassadors for inclusion and diversity on campus" and "liaisons to various identity and community groups," according to the student paper.

"Student Excellence Programs" already exist at Auburn, and it is unclear what will be unique about this program.

Auburn spokespeople and officials in the Office of Inclusion and Diversity declined to respond to questions about the program, including the size of the student stipend.

According to this year's university budget, the OID has an operating budget of $2,494,459, an increase of $35,836 from its 2016-17 budget. With 85 percent going to OID personnel costs, the "Student Excellence Team" may be paid out of these additional funds.

Harvard University has hired 20 Diversity Peer Educators to run social justice programming. Each student could make upwards of $3,000 a year at a rate of $11 per hour for a mandatory 8 to 10 hours weekly spent planning and running equity and inclusion events.

The Office of Student Life and Equity Programs in California's South Orange County Community College District will pay students $11.50 an hour for approximately 10-12 hours of "diversity and equity" work.

Georgia State University launched a program this summer paying six students $100 per month for their work as "Multicultural Competence and Peer Education Ambassadors."

At Texas Tech University, student "Social Justice Advocates" can be paid by university housing a starting salary of $8.00 an hour, for 18-and-a-half to 20 hour workweeks spent "promoting advancement and development of diversity, multiculturalism, social identity development and social justice" in their residences. Students could make $2,400 in one 15-week semester.

Some of these programs have been running for years. Back in 2014, Washington State University began paying $11 per hour to students who know "how power, privilege, oppression operates," in order for them to "promote equity and advance social justice."

That same year, the Office of Residence Life at Marquette University paid students an annual stipend of $3,200 for "acting as a catalyst for diversity dialogue."

Lucrative peer leadership opportunities go beyond those run by residence or diversity offices.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City Bachelor of Health Sciences (BHS) program has launched its inaugural search for a "Diversity Peer Education Team," looking to pay students $300 to be "responsible for providing opportunities for BHS students to learn more about diversity, what diversity means to BHS students, to foster an inclusive environment, and to encourage dialogue between everyone in our community."

Students at Utah's Weber State University can make $20 from the Women’s Center for every sexual violence workshop they lead, where they discuss things like "the current 'rape culture.'"

Such programs often require eligible students to be enrolled full time and have a 2.50 minimum GPA.

Diversity programming is saturated in funds beyond student initiatives, with administrators of these departments receiving average salaries of $175,088, according to a Campus Reform report.