PROF. JENKINS: 'Woke-ness' is in retreat in Florida

Did they really think they could continueindefinitely and with complete impunity? If so, they have now been disabused of that notion.

Rob Jenkins is a Higher Education Fellow with Campus Reform and a tenured associate professor of English at Georgia State University - Perimeter College. In a career spanning more than three decades at five different institutions, he has served as a head men’s basketball coach, an athletic director, a department chair, and an academic dean, as well as a faculty member. Jenkins' opinions are his own and do not represent those of his employer. 

Those loud squawks you hear emanating from Florida (and elsewhere) are leftist professors reacting to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s latest move to “de-woke-ify” the state’s higher education institutions.  

Or maybe it’s just their chickens coming home to roost

According to a recent report from Campus Reform, DeSantis’s legislative agenda for 2023 includes a bill that would “[eliminate] politicized bureaucracies like DEI,” prevent colleges from funding CRT and DEI initiatives “regardless of the source,” and abolish “political loyalty oaths and DEI statements.”  

The bill also adds $100 million to university budgets for “the recruitment and retention of highly qualified faculty” and increases “the amount of research dollars for programs that will feed key industries with talented Florida students.” 

As someone who has written extensively on free speech, academic freedom, and shared governance, I find myself fully on board with the governor’s anti-woke agenda and unsympathetic to his detractors. I hope his counterparts in other red states (like mine) take note and follow suit.  

[RELATED: PROF. JENKINS: Equity is Marxism re-branded]

What we now call “wokeness,” in its various guises—affirmative action, political correctness, social justice, diversity—has been a growing problem in higher education since at least 2000. Faculty and administrators have had years to address it yet have done nothing. It has only gotten worse. 

Now many campuses embrace critical race theory, teaching young people to hate each other and themselves; foist upon them the anti-scientific, anti-human lie that sex is malleable; and demand faculty espouse such nonsense in order to get and keep a job.  

Institutions are also, through de facto diversity quotas and the elimination of merit-based entrance requirements, abandoning all pretense of pursuing excellence in favor of promoting “diversity.”  

This is unsustainable. Academe cannot survive the mindless onslaught of wokeness. DeSantis is right to go after and destroy it, if he can.  

Yet DeSantis is only the instrument. Woke faculty and administrators seem to have forgotten that they ultimately answer to the parents and taxpayers of the state.  

Did they really think they could continue—indefinitely and with complete impunity—poisoning kids against their families and communities? Fostering an environment where depression and suicide have become increasingly commonplace? Promoting hedonistic hook-up culture through campus “sex weeks” and courses like “Mating and Dating”? Encouraging kids to cut off their own body parts?

If so, they have now been disabused of that notion. The people of Florida have spoken through their elected governor (who won in an historic landslide), and they will tolerate no more of this insanity. 

On a personal note, let me address my colleagues directly: Another reason your protestations fail to move me is that the shoe has been on the other foot—MY foot—for most of my career.  

[RELATED: PROF. JENKINS: The reasons why DEI is a costly failure]

Don’t like being told what you can and can’t say? I get it. You’ve been telling me for years what I can’t say—“banned” words, “micro-aggressions,” anything that hints at conservatism—as well as what I must say: “land acknowledgements,” students’ “preferred pronouns,” confessions of “privilege.”   

Basically, I have spent the last two decades carefully weighing every word—and I wasn’t even spewing toxic garbage. To the extent I have ignored your petty dictates and spoken my mind regardless, I have done so at my own peril.  

Indeed, I have been effectively cancelled from two long-term writing gigs for my conservative views. 

Now, after years of discriminating against your colleagues on the right, you feel like you’re being discriminated against. That sucks for you. But it was inevitable, right? As your hero Ibram X. Kendi famously observed, “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination.”

Editorials and op-eds reflect the opinion of the authors and not necessarily that of Campus Reform or the Leadership Institute.