The University of Kentucky is in trouble. Though a conservative state legislature has been in power for more than a decade, university administrators have created a sprawling DEI bureaucracy that encourages racial discrimination in hiring and scholarships, attempts to control students’ “unconscious thoughts and behaviors” through mandatory diversity training, and even requires new building projects to allocate up to $1 million toward public artwork that pushes left-wing ideology.

I have obtained a trove of documents that reveals the University of Kentucky’s decades-long commitment to critical race theory—the doctrine that the United States is a systemically racist nation in dire need of “antiracist” discrimination in favor of preferred minority groups—and left-wing racialism.

The ideological takeover of the university began in 2003, with a new strategic plan that committed UK to building “a diverse workforce and learning community” and laid out a “first-ever diversity goal.” These are euphemisms. Far from the traditional academic commitment to diversity of thought, the University of Kentucky’s conception of diversity meant a new commitment to racial politics and discriminatory practices—affirmative action, informal quotas, and DEI hiring—at every level of the university, laying the groundwork for a strong bureaucracy with which to enforce these new values.

Since then, administrators have exploited the good will of state legislators and citizens, using the old language of racial equality in a new, misleading way. This became clear by 2006, when the university began expanding its DEI offices. In that year’s strategic plan, leadership declared that the adoption of “an organizational structure that supports diversity” would become “the shared responsibility of the entire community.” To that end, the university established “a coherent, focused, university-wide implementation strategy” to “enhance demographic diversity”—that is, to hire and recruit according, at least in part, to race rather than merit.

But the initiative would apply to more than just hiring. In the report, university leadership promised to be “aggressive” in achieving demographic targets and in making sure its “core belief in the value of diversity is manifest in its curriculum, extra-curricular activities, and campus climate.”

After the death of George Floyd in 2020, the process accelerated dramatically. In one of his first responses to that summer of unrest, President Eli Capilouto capitulated to radical student demands to “immediately begin the process of removing the mural in Memorial Hall.” The mural, which recognized the past existence of slavery and celebrated the progress Kentucky had made, was too much for students who believed that all history must be brought into alignment with their ideology. Capilouto ordered the mural taken down, and the university later announced plans to convert the area into “a multicultural space” for students.

In an effort to stop the removal, renowned environmentalist and national poet laureate Wendell Berry sued the university in the summer of 2020, arguing that because the mural was commissioned through a government program, it was public property that Capilouto did not have the authority to remove it. In March 2024, a court dismissed the lawsuit but said that the mural must stay in place for the time being, pending appeals.

In the summer of 2020, President Capilouto used the rioting around the country as a pretext to issue a new “DEI Implementation Plan,” which strengthened the university’s ideological apparatus and created more than a dozen new projects to deepen its commitment to left-wing racial politics. Capilouto effectively established DEI as the university’s new catechism, introducing concepts such as “unconscious/conscious bias,” “microaggressions,” “land acknowledgments,” and “ally, accomplice, co-conspirator” into the curriculum for the first-year course UK 101 Academic Orientation. “UK 101 is a key avenue for supporting institutional diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts,” the order declared. 

As part of this initiative, administrators also bolstered the DEI department’s Unconscious Bias Initiative, a practice designed to convince participants that they have deeply racist unconscious attitudes, which can be overcome only through a conscious, continuous commitment to critical race ideology. This form of indoctrination is now universal. According to a recent report, “every member of the UK community—administrators, Board members, faculty, staff, students—have [sic] had or soon will receive training in how the unconscious mind works in order to mitigate the effects of our unconscious thoughts and behaviors.”

Another project was a “DEI Public Art Fund,” which will require all capital projects of a certain size to allocate up to $1 million toward the commissioning or acquisition of “diverse and inclusive public art,” subject to approval by a new Campus Public Art Committee—effectively, a board of ideological commissars. Beauty was out; politics was in.

Now in its mature form, the DEI bureaucracy at the University of Kentucky has an astounding reach. In the university’s most recent “diversity plan,” DEI is described as “a core value of our institution that guides our everyday decisions,” with “hundreds of people working on specific programs and initiatives designed to promote inclusive excellence.” It has so many DEI initiatives, the university says, that it could not list all of them in this 43-page document.

Discriminatory hiring practices are key to realizing the ideological and demographic transformation of the university. For this reason, the plan instructs administrators and faculty to “educate search committees on implicit biases and their impact on hiring decisions” and “ensure that tenure and promotion policies support diverse faculty.” While there are no explicit racial quotas, the message from the top is clear: “diversity,” meaning racial considerations, matter more than academic achievement.

The University of Kentucky’s central DEI organization, the Office for Institutional Diversity (OID), is led by former NCAA inclusion and human resources director Katrice Albert, whose salary alone costs the university $377,200 each year. In addition to the five units within this office, each separate college at UK has its own diversity officer and DEI program.

The DEI material is uniformly left-wing. OID’s Inclusive Excellence Book Club, as well as several college-level resource lists, promote books such as Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist and Beverly Daniel Tatum’s Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? Alongside books like these, the university library maintains an “Anti-Racism Readings” list that includes Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility and points students to “Free Online Lesbian Movies” available for streaming.

The DEI department also doles out “Inclusive Excellence Grants” of up to $15,000, funded by student fees, for “creative diversity programming ideas.” Past projects include “The Human Library,” where visitors check out “Human Books” (yes, people) who give them “life lessons related to oppression, isolation, stigma and discrimination”; the “Mr. and Ms. Black” pageant; and “Fastathon,” a secularized version of Ramadan.

Meantime, scholarship has suffered. Professors and graduate students publish nonsense, such as a “participatory action research project investigating Black sexual wellness” and formulating the “comprehensive definition” of “whiteness,” which is treated as a pathology. The library is also a home for ideology, with one librarian, who uses “ey/em/eir” pseudo-pronouns, using public funding to advance transgender activism and pushing papers such as “Freaky Gender Fluidity,” and “What’s a Gender Like You Doing in an Institutional Bureaucracy Like This?”

There is no reason why Kentucky legislators, voters, and taxpayers should continue to subsidize left-wing ideologies and outright discrimination at the flagship state university. A bill, 24.RS.BR.262, would have abolished the DEI bureaucracy, but legislators in the House and Senate could not come to an agreement on it.

At their next opportunity, legislators should figure out how to abolish DEI, which would go a long way toward bringing the Bluegrass State back to the ideal of colorblind equality and scholarly excellence.

Photo: benedek/iStock/Getty Images Plus


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