The idea of public universities in the United States originally rested on a compact between the citizen and the republic. The agreement was that the citizen would provide funding for the university in order to train young people to advance the public interest and the common good. In recent years, however, this compact has shattered, and considerable efforts will be needed to rebuild it.

The clearest expression of what has gone wrong is DEI. At first glance, a commitment to “diversity, equity, and inclusion” might seem laudable. But DEI employs a propagandistic language to conceal its real intentions. It is, in fact, the opposite of what it appears to be.

We can review the acronym in parts. First, “diversity.” The initial connotation of the word suggests a variety of people, experiences, and knowledge. But in practice, universities use diversity to justify a policy of sometimes explicit, sometimes implicit, racial discrimination: a total inversion of the principles of colorblind equality and individual merit.

Second, “inclusion.” In kindergarten, teaching kids to be inclusive means encouraging them to share and be polite to classmates. But in the context of a university, inclusion is used as justification for excluding people and ideas that are seen as a threat to prevailing ideologies and sentiments. 

Finally, “equity.” The immediate association is with the principle of equality. But equity is actually a radically opposed idea. Equality is the principle that every man or woman should be judged as an individual, neither punished nor rewarded based on ancestry. Equity demands the opposite: categorizing individuals into group identities and assigning disparate treatment to members of those groups, seeking to “equalize” what would otherwise be considered unjust outcomes.

What this means in practice is that members of certain groups get favored, others disfavored: in short, inequality justified under the ideology of “equity.”

You see this hiding in plain sight. Universities publish in their own materials prima facie evidence of their commitments to racial discrimination, quotas, and disparate treatment on the basis of identity in hiring, admissions, promotions, and in other programs.

Administrators, who are supposed to administer services and manage programs neutrally, use DEI ideology to impose political criteria on the speech and behavior of faculty, students, and staff. They subordinate the pursuit of truth, which should be a university’s highest commitment, to the dogmas of ideological activism.

To give an example of how DEI is actually practiced, consider the following training materials from University of Colorado Boulder’s DEI program.

The basic predicate of CU Boulder’s DEI program is that “Black, Indigenous and People of Color,” or “BIPOC,” students are failing because of “white supremacy culture.”

What is white supremacy culture? According to CU Boulder’s DEI documentation, it includes “individualism,” “perfectionism,” “a sense of urgency,” “worship of the written word,” and “objectivity.” These traits are supposedly vestiges of “whiteness” and unavailable to racial minorities—an unintentionally bigoted attitude. 

Next, CU Boulder’s DEI bureaucrats would have you engage in a 21-day “Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge.”

One of the resources included in this program is a guide on “How to Be a Better White Person.” The document supplied a protocol on how to accomplish this task. Step one: “Realize you’re white.” Step two: “Recognize your privilege.” Step three: “Know things.” Finally, from a related resource, instructions on how to be an “ally” to racial minorities: “Transfer the benefits of your privilege to those who lack it”; “amplify the voices of the oppressed before your own”; “acknowledge that, even though you feel pain, the conversation is not about you.”  

This is not the language of an academic program but of an abusive relationship.

Unfortunately, the language of DEI has also taken hold in CU Boulder’s curriculum. For example, the university has recently included a course on “Critical Whiteness Studies.” The syllabus is replete with activist terms, such as “institutionalized whiteness,” “white privilege,” and “white fragility.” The basic concept is that “whiteness” is an irreducibly malicious essence, loaded with ancestral guilt.

Human history is brutal and filled with injustice. But to scapegoat one population group, European whites, as the essence of evil is nothing but propaganda. Obviously, none of this meets any genuine scholarly standards—and that’s a pattern characteristic of DEI.

Finally, DEI is used as a justification to hire scholars of favored demographics and ideologies. CU Boulder has explicit and implicit racial quotas in hiring, which, in theory, violate the law. According to one professor, more than 90 percent of recent hires at CU Boulder’s College of Arts and Sciences have been diversity hires. Of the remaining 10 percent, some might lay claim to other protected identities, such as “LGBTQ,” reducing the percentage of “oppressors” even further.

This is unethical and immoral. But under DEI, it is a requirement of social justice.

The problem with DEI is not merely administrative or curricular. When its principles are adopted wholesale, DEI compromises the fundamental purpose of the university and the basic compact between the citizen and the state.

In fact, the degeneration of universities into centers of ideological activism—which American taxpayers are currently subsidizing—violates basic democratic principle to such an extraordinary degree that we urgently need to implement dramatic reforms.

Fortunately, this is now beginning to happen. We have already abolished or curtailed DEI bureaucracies in 12 states. In Florida, where I have worked on the reform campaign, Governor Ron DeSantis has not only abolished DEI but also enacted reforms to faculty hiring, university governance, and the core curriculum.

The vision for these reforms is simple: to prioritize merit over ancestry, and to govern by the principle of colorblind equality, rather than left-wing racialism. The university should judge everyone as an individual, rather than as avatars of the “oppressor” and the “oppressed.”

And, most of all, the university should be oriented toward truth. In the coming years, state leaders will have to choose: to prioritize the pursuit of knowledge, or to prioritize racial activism.

We can encourage genuine diversity—a range of opinion, from a variety of people—but universities under DEI have demonstrated, time and again, a basic hostility to scholarly standards and fair conduct. 

America’s universities have been a boon to our society. They deserve public support. But only if the universities meet their end of the bargain.

Abolish DEI. Restore merit. And let the universities pursue their true mission, without ideological interference.

That is what we are working toward. And we will win.

Photo: Carol Yepes / Moment via Getty Images


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