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We're Critics of Many DEI Initiatives. Ron DeSantis's Attacks are Still Wrong

  • “Typical DEI training includes unscientific claims.”

  • “The growth of DEI bureaucracies has fueled bureaucratic bloat.”

  • “DEI offices… are in fact a threat to academic freedom.”

We agree with these three claims. They come from a recent Manhattan Institute Issue Brief about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in public universities. The lead author, Christopher Rufo, is a pivotal figure in the nation-wide anti-Critical Race Theory movement and the brains behind Ron DeSantis’s wholesale efforts to remake Florida’s system of public higher education.

As professors, we have long been skeptical of conventional DEI initiatives. We’ve argued that diversity training is ineffective, often counterproductive; that the push for more DEI administrators has swelled the ranks of unnecessary middle management; and that DEI offices have a pernicious predilection to undermine academic freedom.

So we must be on board, then, with DeSantis’s new initiative to prohibit Florida colleges and universities from using any funding to support DEI initiatives? To the contrary. This measure, in our view, is inseparable from a broader assault on academic freedom in Florida. From the “Stop WOKE Act” to the installation of six new conservative trustees at New College (including Rufo himself), DeSantis and his allies are waging an aggressive, highly orchestrated campaign against faculty expertise, faculty autonomy and faculty governance.

DeSantis and Rufo have framed this campaign as a form of heroic resistance to so-called “woke indoctrination” and the “illiberal takeover” of higher education by DEI offices and left-wing ideology. But make no mistake: whatever you think of their diagnosis of higher education’s problems, the solutions they are advancing are profoundly illiberal in their own right and should be roundly rejected by everyone who believes in the powers of persuasion and the virtues of academic freedom.

Read entire article at Persuasion