". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


In the Other Swamp, DEI Does Go to Die

March 4, 2024

The great southern gator has ended its entire Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) program in a single chomp. “The University of Florida [UF] has closed the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer, eliminated DEI positions and administrative appointments, and halted DEI-focused contracts with outside vendors,” an administrative memo announced Friday. With this decision, UF becomes the largest university in America to cut all DEI staff.

“This is a great development in the ongoing effort to reshape American education,” Family Research Council Senior Fellow for Education Studies Meg Kilgannon told The Washington Stand. “DEI offices served essentially as woke commissars on campus, creating work for themselves by harassing students and staff deemed politically incorrect.”

Florida cut a total of 28 DEI positions, including 13 full-time positions and 15 administrative appointments. Total savings allowed UF to “reallocate the approximately $5 million in funds … into a faculty recruitment fund,” the memo stated. “It’s a fine day for any university president when he can cut costs by spontaneously laying off a bunch of the most useless administrators,” remarked National Review’s Jeffrey Blehar.

According to the memo, UF cut its DEI programming to comply with a 2023 regulation by the Florida Board of Governors, which controls the state’s higher education system. According to that regulation, state universities “may not expend any state or federal funds” to “advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion,” defined as “any program, campus activity, or policy that classifies individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation and promotes differential or preferential treatment of individuals on the basis of such classification.”

That regulation, in turn, implemented a state law banning DEI funding in higher education. In May 2023, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) signed into law SB 266, a bill to “prohibit institutions from spending federal or state dollars on discriminatory initiatives, such as so called ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)’ programs,” his office summarized. DeSantis responded to the news that UF had ended its DEI department, “DEI is toxic and has no place in our public universities.”

The law was one projectile in the state’s broadside assault on woke education. After DeSantis dipped his toe into the murky morass of education reform in 2022 (with the Parental Rights in Education Act), Florida voters rewarded him with a landslide reelection victory, prompting him to set forth a comprehensive, conservative agenda on education. The goal of a higher education system, he argued, was not to protect and inculcate woke platitudes, but “to focus on promoting academic excellence, the pursuit of truth, and to give students the foundation so they can think for themselves.”

Yet DeSantis’s reform agenda faced powerful opponents, not least of whom were the educational institutions themselves. To kickstart this conservative education Renaissance, DeSantis had to drain the swamp. “Florida is where woke goes to die,” was his motto.

To drain the academic quagmire, DeSantis needed to first obtain two things: an accurate survey of the terrain and the right landscaping crew.

DeSantis ordered the first of these in December 2022 by requiring all public universities in the state to “provide a comprehensive list of all staff, programs, and campus activities” related to DEI and critical race theory (CRT). The list had to include costs associated with programs, positions, and the amount of state funding involved. This move was allowed to stand by the same judge who had blocked a previous attempt to rein in university DEI.

The second prerequisite arrived at UF in February 2023, when former U.S. Senator Ben Sasse became its new president. Sasse had an opportunity on day one to set a new vision for reshaping the university’s culture, reputation, and landscape, when the campus Young Democratic Socialists of America chapter protested his stances on abortion and same-sex marriage and delivered a list of absurd demands to his office.

Sasse responded appropriately to the attention-hungry radicals, used to bossing school administrators around, by totally ignoring them. Sasse then responded appropriately in the aftermath of Hamas’s October 7 terror attack on Israel, writing a statement which “shows all other universities how to write public statements,” according to one analysis. Now, the Sasse-led UF administration has responded appropriately to the legislative mandate to ban DEI funding — by banning DEI funding.

The University of Florida is not the first Florida university to announce plans to end DEI. Politico reports that the University of North Florida announced intentions to “phase out” certain offices, while Florida International University has “eliminated” its DEI Division. But UF is the largest and most significant university in the state, so its example sets a precedent for others to follow.

Naturally, the DEI cabal is furious at Florida for evicting them from their natural habitat. Paulette Granbury Russell, president and CEO of the National Association of Diversity in Higher Education, insisted that the effort to obliterate identity politics from institutions of learning was “intended to further marginalize groups that have historically been marginalized in this country.”

Such fact-free jargonese can no more resist exposure to the rising Florida sun than a paper football can fly into a gale. “Constitutional and civil rights protections will still apply to college and university students and staff,” noted Kilgannon. Every student and faculty member will enjoy precisely the amount of protections they are entitled to — that is, the same as every other American.

“The Left will either be stunned when the University of Florida magically manages not to descend into Klan racism even without DEI to keep the kids in line,” predicted Blehar, “or they will pretend not to notice how completely unnecessary it turned out to be.”

Florida’s recent decision might not wring every molecule of DEI-laced ideology from the university at once. The announcement provided a 12-week severance package for the employees whose positions were terminated, and it offered them expedited consideration for other open positions, at the guidance of the university’s HR department.

“Only time will tell if the essential effect of this is achieved. It’s possible that DEI philosophy will just be dissipated across the university by shutting down the office but keeping those employees,” said Kilgannon. But, she added, “that risk is worth taking, and that problem can be solved later if it happens.”

However, this small concession failed to placate the Left (indeed, nothing short of total surrender ever does). Granbury Russell promised to “speak out forcefully against these attacks … as it has since this recent wave of activism first infested our campuses.”

Huh, that’s weird. I could have sworn the campuses belonged to the state of Florida, not the DEI departments, and that they were the real activists.

In Reality Land, public university campuses actually belong to the people of the state of Florida, not the campus DEI departments. And it is these departments, not the officials providing responsible oversight, who engage in radical activism. “Florida taxpayers don’t want to subsidize the DEI project,” said Kilgannon. “It’s wonderful that they are no longer forced to do so.”

Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.