(The Center Square) — A top federal health research agency awarded more than $100K in taxpayer dollars for diversity and equity training for grad students to make them “agents of change.”
The National Institutes of Health allocated $103,380 via a federal grant to train students at the the NIGMS T32 predoctoral training program in Molecular and Cellular Biology at UC Davis in equity and inclusiveness.
Federal documents detailing the grant show it allots the money for students to lead equity and inclusivity training for their classmates at UC Davis.
“We expect that our novel curriculum will significantly improve mentorship and DEIA [diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility] awareness across a broad range of graduate students in biological sciences,” reads the project description. “Our practical focus aims to empower them to become agents of change, leading to a renewed focus on sustaining a climate of equity, inclusivity, respect, and justice in our institution.”
The funding will create a 10-week course for graduate students called, “Mentoring Up in an Equitable and Inclusive manner.” The grant says the plan is that the program will affect the broader academic community at the campus
“…graduate curricula often fail to sufficiently acknowledge that our society carries within it historical and deep-rooted injustices and biases,” the report description reads. “This may lead students from backgrounds and communities who suffered from biases and injustices to feel less supported, reduce their sense of belonging, and hamper their growth as valued members of the scientific community.”
Critics argue the program is a distraction from medical research and training that should be the students’ focus.
“This grant program distracts from the purpose for which students are studying — to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in their field,” said Jonathan Butcher, a policy expert at the Heritage Foundation. “This grant description is saturated in identity politics and racial buzzwords. It will not help molecular biology students to learn molecular biology if they sit through sessions telling them that they have ‘deep-rooted biases.'”
Butcher also argued taxpayers should not be footing the bill.
“Taxpayers should reject the idea that students should be thrown off their studies for a project like this, and they should also be asking why students should be part of a diversity training programs that have not demonstrated positive impact on participants,” he said.
The program’s director, Professor Frederic Chedin, did not respond to a request for comment.