Governor DeSantis is picking a fight with the academic left, and it’s a shrewd move.

I am thrilled that Ron DeSantis is putting in place people who want to reverse the woke academic coup d'état at one state-run institution of higher education. New College of Florida is a rarity: a public liberal arts small college (675 students) that is part of the State University System of Florida, where in-state tuition is under $7000 a year.

Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald Tribune writes:

Gov. Ron DeSantis began the process Friday of transforming Sarasota's New College of Florida into a more conservative institution, appointing six new board members, including conservative activist Christopher Rufo, a dean at conservative Hillsdale College and a senior fellow at The Claremont Institute, a right-wing think tank.

"It is our hope that New College of Florida will become Florida's classical college, more along the lines of a Hillsdale of the south," Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz said in a statement.

The shakeup of the 13-member board is certain to create major tensions at New College, an institution that started as a progressive private school before becoming the state's liberal arts honors college. The small school's student body and faculty have a reputation for leaning left politically.


Factor in the palpable fear and loathing on the left of Ron DeSantis, the new Trump-Hitler. And he is throwing down the gauntlet.

"Unfortunately, like so many colleges and universities in America, this institution has been completely captured by a political ideology that puts trendy, truth-relative concepts above learning," said DeSantis Communications Director Taryn Fenske.

Expect DeSantis to be portrayed as a troglodyte, wrecking a finely tuned machine.

The choices for the New College board drew criticism from Andrew Gothard, president of the United Faculty of Florida union.

“Like many Floridians who have ties to the New College community, UFF (the United Faculty of Florida) was surprised and disturbed today to see the appointment of six trustees whose only apparent interest in the institution is politically and ideologically motivated,” Gothard said in a statement to the News Service.

Gothard said trustees have a “solemn duty” to act in the best interest of everyone on campuses.

“Promises to upend programs with ideologically driven claims that could not be farther from the truth of what actually occurs in a higher education classroom — these do nothing to improve New College, nor will they draw interested students to a campus where trustees are so at odds with the faculty, the local administration and the truth,” Gothard said.

Conspicuous by its absence in Professor Gothard’s critique is the concept of academic freedom.  In the era of wokeism on campus, academic freedom long ago became a joke. You can’t suppress “hate speech” and have academic freedom.  

Governor DeSantis is picking a fight with the academic left, and it’s a shrewd move. The public generally laughs at or scorns campus nuttiness by substantial margins. And the progressives' traditional arguments to boards, trustees or regents, the sacredness of academic freedom, is now a bitter joke.

It looks like DeSantis nominees will have control of the board:

The governor gets six appointments to each university board, while the state Board of Governors - which oversees the university system - gets five. The faculty chair and student body president also serve on the board. The Board of Governors, which is loaded with DeSantis allies, is poised to appoint a New College board member for a seat vacant on Jan. 7, meaning a majority of the board soon will consist of new appointees who can control the direction of the school.

My guess is that they will go for structural change, meaning cutting out entire departments, against which tenure does not offer protectection.  I hope there will be restructuring, large scale firing, accompanied by hiring into new positions.

It will be fascinating to watch how the board proceeds and fun to see the outrage flow from the professoriate’s poison pens.

Hat tip: Ed Lasky

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 2.0 license

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