Texas and Florida lead the fight against the DEI complex
The two states are defunding several diversity initiatives
The return of the American university to its roots in puritan theology has met with much hand-wringing in recent years. And yet, while many have sounded the alarm, no coherent counter-strategy has formed. Meanwhile, it is easy to find stories of those who have found themselves jobless after questioning the latest orthodoxies, usually after a period of public shaming followed by a show trial.
Particularly egregious has been the spread of loyalty oaths to a narrowly defined vision of “social justice” under the guise of “diversity statements”. These are clearly designed to ensure ideological conformity among future faculty or, if not that, to at least humiliate fellow travellers into submission by forcing them to lie for the chance of a job. The increasing ubiquity of these and other policies of dubious legality has been well documented by John Sailer at the National Association of Scholars and, more recently, by the conservative activist Chris Rufo — albeit to little effect.
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Until now, that is. This week, after Sailer published an editorial in the Wall Street Journal exposing how the biology department at Texas Tech University marked down job applicants who were barbaric enough to admit that they intended to treat all races equally, the university immediately issued a statement claiming to have been unaware of the practice, which it had now abolished anyway. The next day, Rufo published a letter reportedly sent by Governor Greg Abbott’s chief of staff to all the state universities in Texas, informing them that using DEI statements as a screening tool is illegal.
This follows hot on the heels of Ron DeSantis’s recent announcement that he intends to end all funding for DEI initiatives, suggesting that the apparent race between Texas and Florida to be the leading conservative state is very real. That said, Abbott took a less scorched-earth approach than DeSantis. His letter says that DEI is not inherently a bad thing, but that it has been “manipulated to push policies that expressly favor some demographic groups to the detriment of others” and can be fixed by the enforcement of existing laws.
The speed at which Texas Tech caved, and Florida State University’s sudden removal of language in violation of the Civil Rights Act from one of its scholarship programmes, suggests that the ideologues may be less powerful than they appear. Indeed, if there is one thing that American universities love more than social justice, it is money, with even the wealthiest colleges showing no shame when it comes to begging for donations. DeSantis appears to be rousing other Republican governors to the idea that, as they control the flow of taxpayer dollars to these institutions, they therefore have a say over what happens inside.
If other Red State governors follow suit, then it is not hard to imagine — American politics being as berserk as it is — that Blue State universities might triple down on their commitment to becoming hyper-progressive madrasahs. Certainly, the least likely outcome is that institutions of higher education across the land will calmly self-correct and agree to respect the pursuit of truth and viewpoint diversity. Of course, many liberal academics and free speech organisations such as FAIR are dismayed. Then again, their total failure to right the house from within has made the pursuit of political solutions inevitable. Interesting frictions lie ahead.
As someone who’s had experience studying and working in US higher education I’ve been following these developments closely. I’ve been very happy so far, although dismayed at how publications like the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed seem to constantly misrepresent DeSantis and others’ motivations in dismantling DEI structures and objectives. One of these publications even removed the possibility to comment on their articles because so many of those working in Higher Education were countering their narrative.
US Higher Education needs a complete reboot. It’s been long overdue.
The Achilles heel of the entire progressive enterprise is that in most countries it is entirely funded with government money. It is beyond the imagination of most progressives that this tap will be turned off – even when these institutions fundamentally abandon their missions. I think De Santis and other red states are creating a template for others to follow. Defund universities – defund student loans for stupid programs -create school voucher systems for K-12 – defund state media organizations – defund activist organizations. Even private universities are at risk as the tax code can be changed so their massive investment funds can be taxed.
Who gets to decide which program is stupid? As a former professor, I can promise you there’s no consensus on that vexing issue. And if we defund universities even more than we have ( since Reagan) many will shutter their doors. Maybe that’s a good thing, as the present system is indeed too heavy with admin., etc. But wholesale calls to “defund” just creates new problems rather than address existing ones.
I’ve worked all my adult life in Higher Education. There is so much waste. So much. Worthless degree programs, useless ‘learning communities’, pointless networking events, mindless bureaucracy, million-dollar athletic circuses, etc. At one college I worked at an administrator managed to misplace one million euros, and at another, one of the executive team donated $20,000 to himself from the college foundation fund. Too much money also goes into salaried positions that contribute zero to academic excellence. All the while, those doing the actual work of teaching students see their benefits and wages plummet and stagnate while they’re also expected to pander to an increasingly spoilt and pampered consumer base.
Higher Ed needs less money, not more. Most of it should go to vocational and community colleges instead.
The reason you are getting thumbs-downed (to verbify the reaction). is that universities haven’t been “defunded”. Fed spending has risen, state spending has decreased slightly. Meantime admin has MASSIVELY increased, a cost borne both by the taxpayer and by students through higher tuition. Many universities now have as many admin as they do students. I like the idea of defunding them, as turning off the cash spigots is perhaps the only thing that might effect change. I am all for self-funded organizations like Ralston College and Hillsdale doing whatever they want – have DIE mandates or not. Have 1000 administrators or don’t. It’s not my business, unless they are taking my tax money to run that business.
“Abbott took a less scorched-earth approach than DeSantis. His letter says that DEI is not inherently a bad thing, but that it has been “manipulated to push policies that expressly favor some demographic groups to the detriment of others” and can be fixed by the enforcement of existing laws.”
This is why I will vote for DeSantis. Abbot means well, but even in this statement, he’s hedging for an elusive middle way”. DeSantis has already realized that the progressives hate him and decided to stop begging them not to. Abbot is still begging.
I have been listening to James Lindsay talk about gnosticism and hermeticism – dialectically synthesised by Hegel and Marx and manifesting in woke marxism today. Lindsay’s thesis places progressivism as a mystic religious cult-like belief system of hermetic practice/activism motivated by a certain strain of gnosticism.
Whilst listening to him outline his thesis, Sturgeon came to mind, and I wondered whether her incapability to, apparently and bafflingly, conceptualise reality in a meaningful way harks to the marxism view that the goal is not to understand the world but to change it.
Totally agree. The “middle ground” is not always right, even though we’ve thought of it as an always-virtuous path in the last couple of generations. Being principled and sticking to your guns is often much more virtuous than compromise.
We MUST find a way to keep DeSantis in FL for four more years, so he can continue to be a leader-example to other red states of what can be done at the state level to combat DEI, aka Wokeism. Political innovation is going to come from the states, not the federal government.
Thank you for this article. It’s encouraging to see a glimmer of hope that our universities (at least some of them) might be salvageable although, as the saying goes, one swallow doesn’t a summer make.
For me, the most telling statement in this article is,
“The speed at which Texas Tech caved, and Florida State University’s sudden removal of language in violation of the Civil Rights Act from one of its scholarship programmes, suggests that the ideologues may be less powerful than they appear.”
Exactly. If the majority pushes back and, as the author notes, threatens university funding, so much of this nonsense will retreat back into the liberal arts departments where it can fester without troubling the real world.
Bullies usually back down when they are directly confronted.
DIE must die.
Too much to hope for some sort of similar effective backlash in UK halls of learning?
Your reference to FAIR in this article is incorrect, it should be FIRE. Two different organizations
DeSantis is a small time bully whose only purpose is to “own the libs” while turning his state into a white supremist theocracy.
Unfortunately it seems the people of Florida are on board with that. I doubt if his culture warrior schtick will translate at a national level.
Do you think a majority of Americans support DEI? Interesting, I did a brief search and couldn’t find any actual polls measuring support for DEI.
I have watched DeSantis from afar with growing admiration. His response to lockdown was principled and persistent in the face of hysterical premonitions which never materialised.
He’s not the DeathSantis that the media painted him as.
Your inarticulate trolling amuses me, your lazy use of white-supremacist implies you’re already bought into the CRT nonsense.
Graeme is merely a troll, best ignored.
He/she sure is. It’s also telling how much these trolls simply hate democracy. Perhaps he doesn’t realize DeSantis won his last election in a landslide.
Perhaps not at the national level, unless we experience massive revival and repentance as a nation; but at the state level I predict it will. More red states will catch on and be encouraged to confront the DEI bullies, at least that is devoutly to be hoped.
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