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Adam Andrzejewski Uncovers DEI Government Spending Through OpenTheBooks Investigations

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OpenTheBooks, operating under the banner of American Transparency, is led by founder Adam Andrzejewski, a former Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate.

He and his organization have become well-known for their investigative series, "Waste of the Day," appearing on RealClearInvestigations, a news site with conservative leanings that detail what's seen as improper and egregious spending by the government. The subjects range from expenditure by federal agencies to DEI-related initiatives at universities.

Adam Andrzejewski Uncovers DEI Government Spending Through OpenTheBooks Investigations

(Photo : WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / Balrog Daemon)

The Focus on Universities and DEI Spending

OpenTheBooks has targeted DEI spending in public universities, including the University of North Carolina (UNC) system, the University of Virginia (UVA), and Oklahoma public universities. Their investigations often present eye-catching figures, which conservative media outlets have widely reported. For instance, Fox News host Jesse Watters cited OpenTheBooks' report claiming UVA spends nearly $20 million annually on DEI, suggesting DEI efforts are a financial drain on educational institutions.

The methodology behind these figures, however, raises questions. OpenTheBooks includes salaries of professors and staff involved in DEI initiatives, even if their primary roles are in different capacities. For example, Dr. Tracy M. Downs, listed as a DEI expense, is also a urologist specializing in cancer treatment. Similarly, Martin N. Davidson, UVA's global chief diversity officer, holds multiple positions, yet his entire salary is labeled as a DEI expense.

READ MORE: Texas Public Colleges Freeze Scholarships To Comply With New Anti-DEI Law; What Does It Imply To Diversity And Inclusion? 

Scrutiny and Criticism of OpenTheBooks' Methodology

Despite the dramatic headlines, critics argue that OpenTheBooks' methodology inflates DEI spending figures. UVA's rebuttal pointed out that OpenTheBooks included about 100 students serving as community tutors and career counselors in their DEI tally. They also reportedly converted part-time pay rates to full-time salaries, significantly inflating compensation figures. Kevin McDonald, UVA's vice president for DEI, contended that the university's actual DEI budget and staffing levels are much lower than OpenTheBooks claimed.

Undeterred by criticism, Andrzejewski has defended his approach, arguing that the universities' lack of transparency justifies his organization's comprehensive counting methods. He insists that their estimates are conservative and that all stakeholders should have access to a complete picture to debate and decide the value of DEI programs.

Expanding the Investigations

Andrzejewski's efforts have not been limited to UVA. Following requests from figures associated with conservative organizations, OpenTheBooks expanded their investigations to other universities. For example, after a speaking engagement with the Jefferson Council, a conservative alumni group at UVA, Andrzejewski was asked to look into DEI spending at UNC. This led to a report claiming the UNC system spends $90 million on nearly 700 DEI staffers. However, like the UVA report, this figure included individuals with various roles, not strictly DEI positions.

Those OpenTheBooks reports have been key to forcing the debate on DEI spending in higher education. Conservative media and organizations used those reports to specify DEI efforts as something among the realms of excessive and financially burdensome. Their supporters, however, will point out that the universities say DEI programs are necessary for equal opportunity and federal mandates in the form of Title IX and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Broader Implications of OpenTheBooks' Work

OpenTheBooks has filled a void in the debate over DEI spending by providing figures that universities often don't disclose in detail. Controversial and open to interpretation, these figures do present the mess and frustrations around defining and justifying DEI spending. Because of the lack of uniform definitions and reporting, what is estimated here can differ extraordinarily, even between conservative groups.

Ultimately, OpenTheBooks's work underlines the never-ending tensions that have to be balanced between transparency and fiscal responsibility, on one hand, and the perceived value ascribed to DEI in higher education. As universities keep treading these waters, scrutiny from watchdog organizations like OpenTheBooks shall be one of the major factors influencing public and political discourse on this topic.

RELATED ARTICLE: Monica Smith Resigns Amid Controversy Over DEI Funding 

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