The Commissars Will See You Now
At Florida International University, DEI bureaucrats have made political activism the center of academic life.
Florida International University, a public institution, has adopted a radical “diversity, equity, and inclusion” program that condemns the United States as a system of “white supremacy,” segregates scholarships and student programs by race, and trains students for participation in left-wing protests and political activism.
I have obtained a collection of documents through Sunshine Law requests that reveal a stunning bureaucratic transformation. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) officials at FIU, who serve a population of more than 40,000 undergraduate students, have steadily operationalized the principles of critical race theory and created a vast web of programming that wraps this ideology into nearly every process of academic life.
The story begins with the May 2020 death of George Floyd in police custody. As riots spread across the United States, FIU administrators and academic departments released a series of statements condemning the United States as a system of “white supremacy.” The university immediately held a racially segregated discussion program—one for “self-identified People of Color,” another for “self-identified White Students”—to induct students into the ideology of anti-racism, which holds that blackness is inherently noble, and whiteness inherently corrupt. FIU bureaucrats explained that these forums were designed to create “a healing space for POC to discuss unique impacts of systemic racism” and to instruct white students so that they could “identify ways to take action against racism” and “advocate for peers and friends who identify as Black/POC.”
Following that summer of protest, the ideological programs at FIU intensified. The university’s DEI officials implemented a heavy mass of programming designed to control language, thought, behavior, hiring, curriculum, and the distribution of resources according to the dictates of left-wing racialism.
This project of ideological capture begins with language. The university’s DEI bureaucrats have published an official “Inclusive Language Guide” that condemns some of the most common words in the English language, such as “husband,” “wife,” “mother,” “father,” “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” “she,” and “he” as “non-inclusive.” In their place, the university suggests, students should use gender-neutral substitutes such as “partner,” “spouse,” “parents,” and “caregivers,” and neologisms such as “Mx.” and “they/them” for a singular person. The racial-categorization rules are even more arbitrary: “Chinese-American” is discriminatory, but “Chinese American” is acceptable; “Jews” is forbidden, but “People who are Jewish” is fine. The point is not to generate stable and accurate language, but to undermine the basic grammar of life, thus softening the ground for political change.
Next, the DEI administrators create internal cadres by recruiting students into publicly subsidized left-wing activism. To this end, FIU offers various programs, such as the Social Justice Badge Program, which recruit, train, and deploy student activists with the goal of implementing the “redistribution of power” and achieving “equity,” or equal outcomes. The badge program invites students to participate in a long series of assessments, conferences, seminars, trainings, and initiatives—a comprehensive political education driven by the bureaucracy, rather than the faculty.
The content of these programs is pure left-wing activism. The seminar materials begin with “land acknowledgements,” promote the Black Lives Matter movement, and describe life in the United States as a system of “Power, Privilege, and Oppression.” In FIU’s social-justice narrative, white Christians are assigned the role of oppressor—the lessons describe “Judeo-Christian holidays,” for example, as a form of “cultural imperialism”—and “trans,” “non-binary,” and “Black people” are assigned the role of the oppressed. Whites must confront their “privilege,” while minorities must work to seize “power.” For one group, the work represents a spiritual purging; for the other, the work consists of bringing down the oppressor, who alone “has the power.”
The endpoint is political agitation. In a training program titled “Grassroots Activism and Protest Safety,” the DEI managers encourage students to engage in protests and demonstrations to “empower social change” and “advocate for diversity and inclusion.” The university valorizes Black Lives Matter, the #MeToo movement, and the March for Our Lives anti-gun movement—in other words, exclusively left-wing political activism. FIU instructs students to target “elected officials, government staff, and outside interest groups” with their messages and to prepare for violence. “Bring a bandana to cover nose and mouth,” the lesson reads. “Download a messaging app that has end to end encryption.”
It’s worth reiterating that these programs are not part of any academic department; they are run by the bureaucracy, in the interest of the bureaucracy. The Social Justice Badge Program and the dozens of similar initiatives across FIU’s sprawling administration provide employment for activist employees, most not competent to serve in academic roles. The programs also create their own demand, as students get rewarded with titles, status, and trinkets for their participation in publicly subsidized political work.
And student programs are just the beginning. The ambition of DEI is not only to promote the ideology but also to assert its authority over every process on campus. In sum, this represents an effort, without the consent of legislators, to place the university as a whole under a new form of governance: the bureaucratic management of academic life according to the dictates of racial ideology.
On faculty recruiting, for example, the university’s DEI bureaucrats have established ideological filters for potential hires by means of “diversity statements,” which require applicants to confess their faith in the basic premises of left-wing racialism. At FIU, all faculty serving on search committees must submit to an intensive training program, STRIDE, which designates official “diversity advocates” who work to maintain the party line. Even in scientific and engineering fields, applicants must submit “diversity statements” to be considered for faculty positions. While such programs may conceal themselves in the innocuous language of “inclusion,” they are, in reality, deeply coercive practices that limit scholarship to conventional left-wing ideas.
Like many public universities, FIU has also created what amounts to a racial spoils system. Much of this is couched in bureaucratic terms, with an array of programs designed to “increase diversity” and “increase representation” of favored groups— those deemed avatars of historical victimhood. But others are more explicit. The Underrepresented Graduate Student Fellowship, for example, is openly advertised for “minority doctoral candidates” only—whites, in other words, are barred from applying. Another scholarship promoted by FIU, the McKnight Doctoral Fellowship Program, states simply that “applicants must be African American or Hispanic.” Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans, in addition to European-Americans, are out of luck.
The most disturbing reality at public universities such as FIU is that the DEI movement is still in its infancy. In a few short years, the commissars have built intensive administrative programs, required political loyalty oaths from faculty, and implemented a system of rewards and punishments based on identity and ideology rather than character and merit. If left unchecked, the DEI bureaucracies will swallow universities whole. They will gradually re-segregate higher education according to the dictates of intersectionality and turn the principle of individual rights on its head. Political activism will replace the production of knowledge—and everyone will be worse off.
Originally published in City Journal.
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