3 U of Minnesota academics retract ‘false’ research accusing school of pervasive racism

Three academics at the University of Minnesota have been forced to retract a “false” research paper concerning diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) after the authors said they had unintentionally “mischaracterized the authenticity of experiences represented.”

The article, “Transactional and transformative diversity, equity, and inclusion activities in health services research departments,” was written on “structural racism” at the university. It was yanked because its claims were purportedly “inaccurate, misleading, or false,” according to a note addressing the withdrawn article.

The piece appeared in the Journal of Health Services Research. It was written by three University of Minnesota employees with doctoral degrees: Stuart Grande, a senior lecturer, Janette Dill, an associate professor, and Tongtan Chantarat, a research scientist.

A blog called Retraction Watch, which reports on the retraction of scientific papers, was the first one to report that the piece had been removed almost three months after it was originally published.

“The article details the DEI-related activities within the school’s Division of Health Policy and Management that were implemented from 2020 onwards amid calls for racial equity. (Minneapolis, where the university’s main campus is based, was the site of George Floyd’s murder in May 2020.) They label some efforts as ‘performative’, but go on to outline hopes for ‘transformative change’ in the division – referring to attempts to build trust and relationships with students and faculty belonging to racial and ethnic minority groups,” Retraction Watch reported.

“The article was a response to an earlier paper by Chantarat that surveyed health services researchers in the United States and found more than half did not believe their colleagues reflected the diversity of the communities affected by their research. Of the participants who said that their institutions had DEI initiatives, almost 40% described them as ‘tokenistic,’ according to the study,” the blog added.

The article contended that the university is not serious about DEI.

Performative DEI work is identified as planning activities, committee work, task force initiatives that are not backed by meaningful actions,” the article claimed. “Many of these activities are disingenuous, such as … website placement of photos of racialized faculty, students, or staff, or sweeping claims about commitment to racial justice.”

Evidently, the authors interviewed staff and students with some claiming that they were tired of DEI initiatives and others who claimed that racism was rampant at the university.

“This communication provided specific experiences of racist behaviors by faculty, staff, and students, and widespread systemic and structural racism within our institution,” the research paper charged. “Structural racism is structuring opportunity and assigning value within an institution based on race, unfairly disadvantaging some individuals and groups while advantaging others.”

According to Retraction Watch, “The authors specifically refer to the personal experiences of ‘one Black faculty member and one Native American faculty member [who were] overwhelmed with advising and mentoring responsibilities, in addition to teaching much of the content in the Division on structural racism.'”

The authors also wrote that those interviewed for their opinions “do not feel equipped or trained to incorporate content related to DEI and issues of structural inequity into their classroom” and some students “do not feel that race or racial inequity, structural racism, and other systems of oppression are adequately or comprehensively covered in the classroom.”

When the article was retracted, a note was issued, stating, “The above article… has been retracted by agreement between the authors, the journal’s Editor-in-Chief, Austin B. Frakt, the Health Research and Education Trust, and John Wiley & Sons Ltd. The retraction has been agreed following concerns raised by the authors following publication that their characterisation of specific data (personal narratives and experiences) was either inaccurate, misleading, or false. The final submitted manuscript unintentionally contained content that mischaracterised the authenticity of experiences represented, and the authors have requested retraction.”

Two of the authors, Dill and Grande, are co-chairs of the Division of Health Policy and Management’s Anti-Racism Practice Committee, which was formed in the summer of 2020.

They also wrote, “We are White health service researchers serving as co-chairs of a committee charged with executing Division anti-racism and DEI goals. Both of us have some training and experience in DEI issues, but we have certainly made mistakes.”

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