A. J. Kaufman
A. J. Kaufmancourtesy

I’ve long found the term “swamp” to be ambiguous, banal and misleading, considering many pundits and politicians who invoke the slur often are themselves the epitome of Washington, D.C.

But since the University of Florida (UF) calls its football stadium “The Swamp,” it’s appropriate that the Sunshine State has begun leading American universities in draining some edu-leftism.

There is no hope for my alma mater, the University of California, which is the most left-wing and corrupt college system around; nor is there hope for state universities in blue places like New York, Pennsylvania, and even more purple states like Wisconsin and North Carolina. But with the leadership of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and incoming UF president, former U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, the Sunshine State has a great opportunity.

More than two dozen presidents of Florida‘s public universities recently pledged to tone down their schools’ obsession with the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) agenda. They vowed to promote open access, not racial preferences, critical race theory, or ideologies that condemn diversity of thought.

These presidents thankfully seek intellectual diversity on campus, not a vacuous one based on skin color or gender.

The university presidents' statement is quite tepid and thus shouldn’t be controversial. They vowed to remove any "instruction, training, and policies" that advocate for reverse discrimination or discourage debate. Unfortunately these aren't efforts to remedy actual curricula, nor even a promise to decrease the number of supercilious DEI administrators; the latter is relevant when 12 of UF's 16 colleges have at least one dean-level DEI officer.

After decades of futile reforms to higher education, it’s a start, yet a bolder approach is needed. DEI is an amoral, regressive ideology destroying our once-proud schools because, above all, it weaponizes "anti-discrimination" laws to intimidate well-meaning dissenters.

Florida's Board of Governors — which sets policy for its higher education — can roll back the system's DEI programs and insist on meaningful curricular changes. Those revisions should start at UF, the nation's fourth largest school by enrollment.

The sanguine Sasse already shared some ideas about re-establishing leadership and building a new regime, because he knows DEI cannot peacefully coexist with a sensible vision for education.

Approved unanimously after being recruited for the school's top role, the Nebraskan can begin by abolishing the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer. This cabal has four non-diverse staff members, who make more than a half-million dollars combined. What do these staff members do for such a lofty income? Their Office claims to cultivate "multicultural skills," but its real goal is to build a massive network of administrators, faculty, and naive students obsessed with DEI lunacy.

Sasse can eradicate funding for meaningless programs about race, equity, and social justice, as well as Ibram Kendi books and workshops on so-called institutional bias, like a divisive series dedicated to “racism and inequity.”

The list is endless, but on the positive reform side, let’s increase the size of scientific, engineering and medical footprints on campuses. Use monies saved by abolishing DEI administration to attract the best scientific minds. Let recruiters search the country for real academic leaders to head this initiative. The best non-woke minds should gather in Gainesville with aims to be a premier engine for American scientific progress. This, unlike DEI balderdash, will help students and the country.

The emphatic victories by Florida Republicans in last fall's election provides a unique opportunity to extinguish detestable wokeism. During his eight years in office, Sasse arguably was the most thoughtful mind in Washington; along with the intrepid DeSantis, Florida's two Republican U.S. senators, and especially Florida's Board of Governors, he can set an example for the entire country and begin the foreboding work of recapturing his new campus from the DEI tyrants.

Ari Kaufman is a correspondent for several U.S. newspapers and magazines, from Minnesota and Ohio to Tennessee and Virginia. He taught public school and served as a state military historian before beginning his journalism career. The author of three books, he is also a frequent guest on radio programs and contributes to Israel National News and The Lid.