Announcing a Major New Initiative to Combat Academic Illiberalism
Alongside my MI colleague Chris Rufo and the Goldwater Institute's Matt Beienburg, I propose model state legislation to rein in racialist higher-ed bureaucracies.
Many lament the decline of free speech, academic freedom, and civil discourse on college campuses while wringing their hands at what can be done about the problem. Some see cultural pathologies that simply can’t be remedied through public policy. Others think that any attempt at reform would in turn tread on academic freedom and simply replace one set of ideologues for another. Still others don’t like what they see but say it’s just a product of the long-ago liberal takeover of the academy.
But the tide sweeping across America’s institutions of higher education—speaker shutdowns, student self-censorship, professorial persecutions for wrongspeak—goes far beyond decades-old complaints about lefty professors and evergreen lamentations about “the kids these days.” So much of what ails academe relates neither to what professors teach nor to how Gen Z was raised.
Instead, it’s the growth of university bureaucracies generally and diversity/equity/inclusion (DEI) offices in particular that have fueled ideological indoctrination and enforcement rooted in identitarian primacy. It’s an illiberal takeover that’s now at issue.
Ironically, these burgeoning DEI commissariats stifle intellectual diversity, prevent equal opportunity, and exclude anyone who dissents from a rigid political orthodoxy. The Covid pandemic and “racial reckoning” provoked by George Floyd’s killing accelerated that illiberal shift such that critical race theory (CRT), once thought to be a relic, returned with a vengeance. Radical bureaucrats went on the march and cowardly presidents, provosts, and deans enabled them.
As readers of this newsletter know, I reject a counsel of despair in the face of this challenge. There’s actually a lot that state legislatures can do to reverse the illiberal tide, at least with respect to public universities. I’ve been working with my Manhattan Institute colleagueand the Goldwater Institute’s Matt Beienburg, to come up with reform proposals. Building on insights from the National Association of Scholars, we’ve come up with four, which we’ve published as an MI Issue Brief called “Abolish DEI Bureaucracies and Restore Colorblind Equality in Public Universities.”
Each proposal contains a purpose, model legislative text, and a rationale. Here they are:
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