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Some question whether Illinois’ diversity, equity and inclusion board is truly inclusive

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(The Center Square) – As diversity, equity and inclusion efforts wane across the country, the state of Illinois continues to embrace the idea.

A recent report by the DEI consulting company Paradigm found that fewer companies have a budget for DEI initiatives this year than in 2022. It comes in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down the use of race-conscious admissions at colleges.

“External forces are no longer pushing companies to invest in DEl; instead, in some cases, external forces are pushing back on companies’ investment in DEI,” the report said.

The Illinois Commission on Equity and Inclusion consists of seven people who make six-figure salaries. The chairperson receives $141,000 a year. Other board members make $134,000 a year. The stated function of the board is to “have a role in all State and university procurement by facilitating communications between the Business Enterprise Council for Minorities, Women, and Persons with Disabilities, the purchasing entities, the Chief Procurement Officers, and others.

“The Commission may create a scoring evaluating for State agency directors, public university presidents and chancellors, and public community college presidents,” a state website said of the commission’s function. “The Commission shall provide support for diversity in State hiring and oversee the implementation of diversity training of the State workforce. The Commission shall propose legislative changes to increase inclusion and diversity in State government.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state’s DEI efforts will benefit all Illinoisans.

“I’m thrilled to have the expertise of this office to help us shape a more equitable government,” Pritzker said. “It will strengthen our state and expand opportunities for all of our residents.”

But during a recent Illinois Senate Executive Appointments Committee hearing, state Sen. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, noted that the board does not include a single Republican.

“How can a commission that considers itself equitable not have a voice from both sides of the political aisle?” Bryant said.

DEI board member Nina Harris, who has a salary of $134,600, said politics never influences the board’s decisions.

“I know you said that it doesn’t become political and I appreciate that, but everything becomes political, even if you are at Walmart paying for something and complaining about sales taxes,” Bryant said.

The promotion of DEI on college campuses has become a big focus in academia, but a 2022 study says many of the programs are bloated and at significant taxpayer cost. The Heritage Foundation found that there were over 70 DEI personnel at the University of Illinois, with one member making nearly $330,000 a year.

The authors of the report note that it is troubling that much of the programming that DEI personnel offers tends to lack diversity of viewpoints and may have the effect of dividing rather than including.

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