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A photo illustration containing headlines of articles from OpenTheBooks founder Adam Andrzejewski.

OpenTheBooks founder Adam Andrzejewski has written multiple articles on universities’ diversity, equity and inclusion staffing and spending.

Photo illustration by Justin Morrison/Inside Higher Ed | OpenTheBooks | City Journal

Adam Andrzejewski and his organization, OpenTheBooks, seem very busy. The former Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate and his group publish an ongoing series of articles at RealClearInvestigations, a conservative-leaning news site, called “Waste of the Day.”

Among OpenTheBooks’ many targets have been Dr. Anthony Fauci’s compensation, federal agencies’ spending and California governor Gavin Newsom’s opposition to a measure that could limit taxes. And amid the current national political fixation on universities, including their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, “Waste of the Day” articles have appeared since December focusing on DEI spending at the University of North Carolina system, the University of Virginia and Oklahoma public universities, plus other issues at Indiana University, Northwestern University and Ivy League institutions.

Andrzejewski and OpenTheBooks also publicize the investigations on their own webpages and on social media, and conservative media outlets have uncritically repeated the flashy numbers that appear in headlines.

Citing OpenTheBooks’ reporting in a segment this year, Fox News host Jesse Watters said, “If you haven’t realized by now that DEI is a grift, let me just take you to school—specifically the University of Virginia, which spends nearly $20 million a year on DEI.”

OpenTheBooks is another name for American Transparency, a nonprofit Andrzejewski founded. It’s classified as a 501(c)(3), which the IRS says is for “charitable, religious, educational” and other purposes.

Its address is Andrzejewski’s Hinsdale, Ill., home. American Transparency posted its 2023 IRS Form 990 on its website, showing $3.5 million in revenue that year and compensation exceeding $100,000 each for seven employees, including $197,000 for Andrzejewski and $323,000 for Craig Mijares, the chief operating officer.

What that form, and Andrzejewski, don’t say is where the money comes from. In a brief phone interview, Andrzejewski said American Transparency is a private organization and “we don’t release the names of our private donors, period.” He answered further questions via email.

“Our donors enjoy the ability to privately support causes they believe in, including ours,” Andrzejewski wrote. “Privacy is for individuals, and we are owed transparency from government.”

Andrzejewski said his group employs and contracts with certified public accountants and uses forensic auditing tools. On March 5, he published OpenTheBooks’ investigation into the University of Virginia under an eye-popping headline: “University of Virginia Spends $20 Million On 235 DEI Employees, With Some Making $587,340 Per Year.” The article links to an Excel sheet of all those employees, including their names and base pay.

Posted on the Substack webpage for his organization, the article praised the University of Florida’s cuts to DEI spending, saying, “All who care about learning can look to Florida as the beacon of a new day.” But, Andrzejewski wrote, there’s “no such luck for learning at Virginia’s flagship university—founded by Thomas Jefferson no less.” UVA’s DEI staffers were, he wrote, “costing students and taxpayers a fortune.”

Andrzejewski’s headline numbers made it into headlines in the conservative Washington Examiner and the Daily Mail, which began its characteristically long headline with “University of Virginia EXPOSED for $20M annual DEI spend on 235 staff.”

Andrzejewski wrote that it also “hit multiple primetime shows on Fox News” and “the nightly news on the nearly 200 ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox affiliates of Sinclair Broadcast Group,” the conservative-leaning local news network. Andrzejewski makes regular appearances on The National Desk, a Sinclair-produced news program.

But below the headline of the original article, Andrzejewski provides more information on how OpenTheBooks came to its figures—a methodology that makes his headline considerably less straightforward than it appears.

The article starts with a graphic listing the top 10 “highest paid DEI staff” next to their “estimated taxpayer cost.” One is Dr. Tracy M. Downs, UVA Health’s chief diversity and community engagement officer. However, Downs is also, according to the university’s website, a professor and a “urologist specializing in the surgical treatment of urologic cancers” who serves patients. Nonetheless, OpenTheBooks labels all of his compensation, which it estimates at $405,600, as a DEI expense.

The graphic also shows the highest-paid UVA DEI staff member is Martin N. Davidson, its global chief diversity officer. He makes an estimated $587,340, the graphic shows. So that would only be one person making that much, not the “some” in the headline.

Davidson also holds other titles, including a tenured faculty position as the Johnson and Higgins Professor of Business Administration. He is also the interim executive director of the University of Virginia’s Contemplative Sciences Center. Yet OpenTheBooks labeled his whole salary as a DEI expense.

Andrzejewski defended including Davidson’s entire salary, noting to Inside Higher Ed that, among other things, Davidson teaches a class called Leadership, Diversity and Leveraging Difference. Further, Andrzejewski said, “it is UVA itself that has the responsibility for the DEI accounting, and they’ve shown terrible opacity."

Farther down, the article reveals that OpenTheBooks included several employees who conduct sexual misconduct investigations and ensure compliance with Title IX and the Americans With Disabilities Act in its count. Those are possibly federally required positions.

On the day the article emerged, Brian Coy, UVA’s chief communications officer, told The Washington Times that OpenTheBooks “seems to wildly overstate” UVA’s DEI spending and staffing levels. Later, UVA went further in its critique.

An April 22 rebuttal on the university’s website suggested a major error: OpenTheBooks had “wrongly included about 100 UVA students who serve as community tutors and career counselors.” UVA said the group also “inaccurately converted” part-time workers’ pay rates “from hourly seasonal roles to full-time annual jobs, resulting in a considerable inflation of what they are actually paid.”

Kevin McDonald, the university's vice president for DEI and community partnerships, said in the rebuttal that he believes it’s wise to spend “resources to provide equal opportunities.” But, he said, “strictly as a factual matter, if you hear UVA spends $20 million yearly on DEI programs, including 235 employees, that’s simply false.”

Upping the Count

Andrzejewski hasn’t taken such criticism lying down. In a March 21 Substack post, he called his group “non-partisan” and questioned whether people could trust Coy because he had been communications director for two Democratic governors and the Virginia Democratic Party.

Instead of reducing his tally of DEI employees in response to UVA’s criticisms, Andrzejewski has gone dramatically in the opposite direction. In May, in City Journal, a publication of the conservative Manhattan Institute, he wrote that OpenTheBooks had newly “identified more than 100 additional employees across 80 university departments who, in addition to their primary roles at the university, were contributing variously as DEI deans, directors, project leads, coordinators, representatives, fellows, council members, faculty advisers, ex officio members and even ‘JEDIs’ (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion personnel).”

“While the university refuses to be transparent, we’re confident in our count,” Andrzejewski wrote. But apparently the counting wasn’t over. “To date, we’ve uncovered more than 350 UVA employees who are propelling the university’s DEI push,” he wrote. “And we have yet to find them all.” He told Inside Higher Ed, “Our estimates are conservative.”

Thomas M. Neale, president of an anti-DEI group founded by conservative UVA alumni called the Jefferson Council, said he reached out to OpenTheBooks last fall after hearing about the group from another council member—the father of an OpenTheBooks employee.

Jim Bacon, the council’s contributing editor who writes on its website and was its executive director until recently, told Inside Higher Ed the organization “voluntarily made a contribution to OpenTheBooks” after the investigation, “in gratitude.” Neale said it was a $5,000 honorarium, technically for a speech Andrzejewski gave about the investigation.

Bacon wrote on the council’s website that the council also “provided assistance in the research and fact-checking” for OpenTheBooks’ initial article. He told Inside Higher Ed the council has developed knowledge of UVA’s “labyrinthine” bureaucracy and sought to help OpenTheBooks understand the information they were looking at. And this partnership may have led OpenTheBooks to its next exposé.


Andrzejewski was a featured speaker for the Jefferson Council’s third annual dinner on April 9, along with John P. Preyer, chair of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Board of Trustees—a board that would vote in May to shift money from funding DEI to university police. A video of Andrzejewski’s speech and Q&A session, which OpenTheBooks posted online, shows the first question he got from the audience was “Have you ever been to Chapel Hill, North Carolina?”

The person, unidentifiable in the video, said, “I’ve got a job for you.” Andrzejewski, with a laugh, said, “Just google ‘Andrzejewski’ and let’s get in contact and let’s talk.”

Preyer told Inside Higher Ed that he couldn’t tell whether that was his voice in the video, but he said he sat at the same table with Andrzejewski and asked him to look into whether Chapel Hill administrators were understating the number of DEI positions and expenses there. “I think it’s a good thing to have third-party verification on data like that,” Preyer told Inside Higher Ed.

Andrzejewski, asked about the connection, told Inside Higher Ed, “I’m not answering questions on our internal decision-making, whistleblowers or how we prioritize an investigation.”

But OpenTheBooks did, the following month, release a DEI investigation on the whole UNC system, two days before its Board of Governors was set to vote on repealing its DEI policy.

The May 21 headline on OpenTheBooks’ Substack was “University Of North Carolina System Spends $90 Million On Nearly 700 Staffers Under The DEI Umbrella.” Conservative outlets like National Review, The Daily Caller and The Washington Examiner repeated the numbers.

Andrzejewski wrote in the article that “on Wednesday, the system’s governing board may end the controversial program that institutionalizes bias and prejudice based on neo-Marxist principles and falsehoods—such as America is a structurally racist country.”

Like with the UVA investigation, the article itself called the big numbers in the headline into question. Of the “nearly 700 staffers” number, OpenTheBooks said fewer than half were found in what it called “DEI-related roles listed on the UNC system’s payroll.” Nearly 400 of the 700 staffers counted were only “members of DEI committees, commissions and councils,” it said.

Yet the total compensation for those merely serving on a DEI committee—not being paid for DEI jobs—was poured into the $90 million figure. So were the salaries of professors teaching about race, gender and other issues.

Andrzejewski wrote that “we did our best to quantify the entire complex of DEI, Office of Civil Rights, Equal Opportunity, Title IX and other offices. Some of these agencies are mandated by state or federal law.” Asked why he included those offices, Andrzejewski wrote to Inside Higher Ed that “now, all stakeholders have a complete picture. Stakeholders can debate and decide what’s education muscle and what’s political fat.”

If there may be issues with how OpenTheBooks counts DEI positions and expenditures, the universities themselves aren’t providing detailed information about what the numbers should be. The UNC system said it doesn’t collect this data. Further, there aren’t agreed-upon definitions on what should or shouldn’t be called DEI.

What Is DEI, Anyway?

What DEI means can depend on who’s defining it.

One UNC system spokesperson, when asked for the system’s DEI positions and expenses for them, wrote in an email that “the system office does not collect that data.” The spokesperson emailed a link to a Raleigh News & Observer article that provided self-reported numbers from most of the state’s public universities. That article’s numbers were much lower than OpenTheBooks’, but the definition used was people who “spend at least half of their work time on the [DEI] efforts.”

A 2022 article from the conservative North Carolina–based think tank the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal came up with a much lower figure than OpenTheBooks’ $90 million, 700 staffers number. The Martin Center reported “over $11 million going towards DEI staff salaries within the UNC System,” though its linked report says those numbers were only for “administrative” salaries.

UVA has provided its own figure, saying there are around “55 dedicated DEI positions with a total annual budget of $5.8 million,” not the 235 and $20 million figures OpenTheBooks’ headline suggested. UVA sent Inside Higher Ed a 2023 PowerPoint presentation with a graphic that said its calculation excluded salaries for faculty members “on administrative appointment who are paid based on their faculty role and market value.”

Bacon, with the Jefferson Council, said, “Everyone comes up with a slightly different number because ultimately it all boils down to semantics.” But the numerical differences have been wide, even among conservative organizations, and they’ve been much lower than OpenTheBooks’ calculations—or the headlines they generate.

A 2021 Heritage Foundation report, which excluded “staff listed as primarily having responsibility for ensuring compliance with legal obligations,” concluded there were 94 DEI personnel at UVA. A report from the conservative Virginia Association of Scholars and funded in part by the Jefferson Council counted 77 DEI administrators in 2021 receiving $6.9 million in compensation. The Association of Scholars said that was up significantly from 2020.

OpenTheBooks has inserted itself into the void left in lieu of more detailed numbers agreed upon between DEI proponents and opponents. Its numbers raise the question of whether DEI expenses and positions are even definable.

“Ultimately, there’s no way of knowing,” Bacon said. “Calculating any number,” he said, involves a “limitless number of value judgments.”

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