by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Princeton University has created a “supplier diversity” tool that allows staff to search for vendors with “diverse attributes,” part of a multiyear plan to inject diversity quotas into the school’s procurement process.
The tool, a screenshot of which was circulated on social media, lets users exclude suppliers outside a boutique cross-section of identities. A department buying office supplies, for example, could restrict its search to businesses owned by LGBT African Americans, Native American veterans, or “Asian Pacific American” women, among other combinations.
The tool is available to all Princeton faculty and staff, the university’s Office of Finance and Treasury said in a November newsletter. It came online after Princeton pledged in April 2021 to direct 10.5 percent of its expenditures to “certified diverse firms,” according to a procurement plan posted on the school’s website.
Princeton University declined to comment for this story.
Supplier diversity has become something of a cause célèbre throughout higher education. Yale, for example, announced in October 2021 that it had launched a “Supplier Diversity Program” that would “identify and encourage” minority-owned businesses to bid for contracts. Harvard, Dartmouth, Swarthmore, Cornell, and the University of Pennsylvania have adopted similar programs.
The trend is part of a broader move toward race-conscious procurement schemes in the business world, where “supplier diversity” has become an ESG (environmental, social, and governance) buzzword—and a boon to consultancies. Several marquee consulting groups, including Deloitte and McKinsey, now offer resources to firms seeking to diversify their suppliers; Boston Consulting Group has an entire team that develops “inclusive strategies for advancing supplier diversity.”
At Princeton, these trends have fueled the growth of an already massive bureaucracy, creating new jobs for diversity apparatchiks on the Ivy League campus.