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If We Want Western Civilization To Survive, DEI Cannot

Many governors are undertaking salutary but desultory anti-DEI actions. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has taken a root-and-branch approach.


Last week, the University of Florida announced that 13 full-time diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) positions had been eliminated, and 15 faculty members had their administrative appointments terminated. Similar announcements came from Florida International University and the University of North Florida. New College and University of South Florida dismantled DEI offices earlier. Only the University of Central Florida is openly defying Florida’s 2023 ban on DEI.

DEI ideology has flourished in our nation’s academic institutions, where it long ago captured faculties and then administrators. Disciplines such as sociology or gender studies have seen the principles of identity politics sewn into their professional standards, so there is no effective difference between subject matter mastery and deep ideological indoctrination.

Diversity advocates are absolutely correct that efforts to dismantle the DEI complex on campus mark a civilizational battle. “DEI activities,” writes Mathew H. Grendle of Elon University in Inside Higher Ed, “are designed to address and dismantle structures and systems that perpetuate universal harm” (emphasis mine). The “universal harms” are racial disparities. The cause of such disparities is having standards. Standards are the key to civilization.

Diversity advocates aim to dismantle essential elements of our civilization such as the rule of law impartially applied, in favor of a two-tiered system of justice based on group identity. “Intellectual diversity” or “free speech” are code words for white supremacy or white privilege to DEI bureaucrats, and are implicitly violent, because words can harm. Scientific achievement uses objectivity as a mask for racial and sexual disparities, so new standards for science are necessary. The Christian religion and traditional family must be dismantled because they embody heteronormative oppression.

What is new about our situation is the capture of the managerial class. Diversity regulations like affirmative action imposed from above by administrations have long been common at elite institutions, but these impositions became increasingly tyrannical after 2010. Higher education administrations across the country began requiring strategic plans to impose ideological hiring processes like “diversity statements” and “implicit bias” training, curricular transformation, and changes in student life such as separate commencement ceremonies for black graduates. Prosecution of professors for heterodox thinking became increasingly common.

Florida at the Vanguard

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis leads the nation in laying out and applying a strategy of dismantle and replace to counter the DEI revolution. He has also understood the tactical importance of both policy and personnel in higher education and elsewhere.

The opening salvo in Florida’s higher education reform was the 2023 passage of SB 266, which called for the dismantling of DEI offices in Florida’s systems and for a review of general education. It also established counter-programming at major institutions and pointed toward program review in higher education. The strategy was clear: Building healthy entities required dismantling administrative opposition on campus.

After the law was passed, state agencies prohibited taxpayer funding of activities promoting “diversity, equity, and inclusion” or “political or social activism.” Individual Florida universities are now executing this rule.

Elsewhere in the nation there is no such improvement: The University of Texas at Austin has simply renamed its offices and continued its DEI push in violation of the Texas ban on DEI offices, because the university president and board of trustees are willing to defy political authorities. Gov. DeSantis and Florida executives in general have long been selective about who serves on university boards of trustees, since the trustees appoint and oversee university presidents. As a result, universities in Florida have few presidents crusading for DEI. The University of Florida, for instance, is led by Ben Sasse, the former Nebraska senator, whose provost is former professor and Trump appointee J. Scott Angle.

In addition, Florida’s higher education administrators have reviewed the state’s general education courses. At the end of the process, administrators voted to drop sociology as a course that fulfills general education requirements. “Students should be focused on learning the truth about our country,” Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz argued, “instead of being radicalized by woke ideologies in our college classrooms.” May this be a first step toward review of state support for programs that foster political activism.

Though only in the early stages, Florida is building an alternative vision for education to strengthen traditional learning, American competitiveness, and meritocratic achievement. DeSantis has allocated money toward bolstering the sciences throughout Florida’s university system, and Sasse has made this a priority. The governor supports the University of Florida’s Hamilton Center for Classical and Civic Education, a school dedicated to “support teaching and research concerning the ideas, traditions, and texts that form the foundations of Western and American civilization.” He has also pursued an emphasis on technical workforce education in Florida’s college system.

Dismantle the DEI Apparatus First

Many states are undertaking salutary but desultory anti-DEI actions. Such an approach risks playing whack-a-mole with the DEI institutions because leaders haven’t supported an alternative vision of education to replace the corrupt one. Other states such as Tennessee and Ohio have built centers akin to the Hamilton Center on campus without first dismantling the administrative DEI apparatus. Such dismantling is crucial, because an embedded culture of tenured radicals strains all academic centers. Hostile administrators are also likely to erode, defund, and dishonor institutes that stand for civil discourse or intellectual diversity.

Aside from embracing both sides of the “dismantle and rebuild equation,” governors must recognize that everything depends not only on their laws and executive orders, but on the personnel who will implement the laws and orders. DeSantis has taken a root-and-branch approach to remove the old growth and install his own. 

Florida understands the stakes: DEI or civilization? Other governors should recognize the stakes and act accordingly.

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