Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is waging a war to regain public oversight in higher education by the dismantling of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) bureaucracies.
DEI has a chilling effect on freedom of expression in higher education, critics warn. And even worse, it is producing radical political institutions that no longer teach kids or give them the life skills to be successful.
“Undoubtedly, these bureaucracies are more interested in protecting their status quo and furthering their agenda rather than delivering a quality education to Florida’s students,” DeSantis’ press secretary Bryan Griffin told The Lion.
DEI bureaucrats in Florida produce questionable content such as Florida State University’s “Social Justice Ally” workbook, which includes instructions on how to confess “white” guilt. University of Southern Florida’s (USF) “Antiracist Resources” list promotes “75 Things That White People Can Do For Racial Justice,” along with instructions on how to make reparations to African Americans.
The equity bureaucracies are also spending sinkholes.
The DEI office at the University of Florida has staffing costs of $750,000, at Florida A&M University $1.8 million per year, at USF over $1.1 million per year, at Florida International University over $1 million per year, and at University of Central Florida over $445,000 per year.
DeSantis, who was recently reelected to his second term as governor, is battling DEI in state colleges with a “multi-prong” effort, Jay Greene, senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy, told The Lion.
“And this is important,” Greene says. “A multi-prong strategy is very important for addressing a problem like this, because, if you emphasize only one solution, the problem can reappear in some other form; they can evade it more easily.”
Toward that end, the Manhattan Institute’s Christopher F. Rufo, Ilya Shapiro and Matt Beienburg crafted model legislation aimed at scrapping DEI, ending mandatory diversity training, curtailing political coercion and stopping identity-based preferences. Efforts to curtail the radical equity agenda in West Virginia and Florida share a lot in common with the model.
Greene says DeSantis’ plan consists of four strategies.
The first is to get rid of funding for DEI offices and employees at state schools.
“Consequently, the Executive Office of the Governor is working to ensure that a full and truthful compilation of … DEI-related spending is gathered, and these efforts are ongoing,” Griffin said.
However, education bureaucrats are resisting and have “significantly misreported and under-reported” their spending, Griffin added.
The second strategy is to provide great oversight of school trustees, who have often served as rubber stamps for DEI agendas.
“Particularly, [DeSantis] is doing this at New College, where he’s appointed six reform-oriented trustees,” said Greene.
The appointments have sent a signal to other state boards of trustees that they need to step-up oversight. And there are indications it’s beginning to work.
DeSantis’s office told The Lion that “the Florida College System presidents have committed, thanks to our efforts, to ‘not fund or support any institutional practice, policy, or academic requirement that compels belief in critical race theory or related concepts such as intersectionality, or the idea that systems of oppression should be the primary lens through which teaching and learning are analyzed and/or improved upon.’”
Greene says the third prong of DeSantis’ plan to dismantle DEI is by “eliminating diversity statements as requirements for, or criteria for, hiring, promotion or tenure.”
Critics of DEI have blasted the practice as producing quasi-religious statements of faith for progressive ideas about race and identity that are antithetical to the mission of learning.
“DEI in general sounds innocuous, all rainbows and puppies. Who can be against diversity or fairness or making people feel welcome?” Shapiro told The Lion. “But really, what this stuff does is prevent intellectual diversity, impede equal opportunity that excludes those who don’t conform to progressive orthodoxy.”
Greene likened the diversity statements to loyalty oaths, which are generally forbidden under American law.
The fourth strategy is “to eliminate Critical Race Theory and other discriminatory content from courses” and graduation requirements. In essence, DeSantis is wresting back control of Florida’s educational institutions from its woke employees and giving more authority to the taxpayers who created and fund those institutions, said Greene.
“These DEI and CRT bureaucracies are large, bloated, and self-serving,” adds Griffin. “Nonetheless, what was reported [so far] revealed an extraordinary misuse of taxpayer dollars to promote a political agenda at the expense of academic focus.”