‘Hostile Takeover’: Small Florida University Ron DeSantis Targeted by Ron DeSantis

N.of the university florida began making history the day it opened its doors to its first admission class of 101 undergraduate students in 1964. It was the first institution of higher learning in Florida, once part of the slave-owning Commonwealth, and pioneered an open admissions policy. Commit to the school not to discriminate on the basis of “race, creed, national origin or cultural status”.

The university’s founding principles emphasized freedom of inquiry, and the eminent historian and philosopher Arnold Toynbee was invited to join the newly retired university’s charter faculty. New His College became a public institution when it joined Florida’s state university system in 1975, but it soon established itself as one of the best liberal arts schools in America.

Now New College may be on the brink of making history again, but it’s of a very different kind.

A picturesque seaside campus in the city of Sarasota, Florida, was targeted in right-wing Republican governor Ron DeSantis’ latest culture war crusade, in which, in this instance, about 650 generally progressive It is destroying its informal reputation as a haven for trendy students. Half of them identify as non-heterosexual.

DeSantis, who was widely expected to challenge Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in the 2024 election, said on the night of his re-election victory last November, “To the Woke Mob” and “Florida Woke Up.” It is a place where people die,” he famously proclaimed.

To that end, he said last year that Disney would suspend all political contributions within Florida after the state legislature enacted a so-called “don’t say gay” bill that would ban teaching lessons. Undertook Disney for the CEO announcement of the month. She gives lectures on sexual orientation and gender identity to her third grade and younger public school students.

DeSantis, 44, has recently been paying more and more attention to education issues. Last year, he tried unsuccessfully to ban University of Florida faculty from testifying in criminal trials as expert witnesses for defense attorneys. It was forbidden to teach transfer courses.

And New College is firmly in his sights.

DeSantis’ office issued a statement on the first Friday of the new year announcing the appointment of six governors to the New College’s 13-member board of directors.

They included Christopher Ruffo, a conservative activist spearheading an ongoing attack on the alleged teachings of critical race theory in elementary and middle school. Matthew Spalding was a professor and dean at his college, Hillsdale, a private conservative Christian school in Michigan, and the late Rush said on his Mr. Limbaugh’s popular radio talk show that his listeners were teenagers. was often touted as the type of college to send to. Charles Kessler is a professor at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California and editor of the conservative publication Claremont Review of Books.

Almost no one on campus saw it coming. “I was completely caught off guard,” said Steven Shipman, a professor of physical chemistry and president of the university’s teachers’ union. rice field. “Basically, we’re such a small agency that I thought the governor had other priorities.”

Rufo, a senior fellow at a conservative think tank called the Manhattan Institute for Policy Studies, declared war on New College amid a barrage of tweets and press conferences in the first few days of 2023. In an interview with a New York Times columnist. , the 38-year-old Georgetown University alumnus, articulated his goals and those of his fellow DeSantis-appointed trustees. your values. “

Rufo gleefully used military tropes on Twitter to explain his tactical plans as future New College trustee. He soon announced plans to tour the campus with “our landing team,” and on January 6, when DeSantis’ office released a surprise statement about future membership in the university’s board of trustees. , Rufo tweeted: Ready to remove walls and transform higher education from within. “

Some scholars who specialize in issues related to higher education see colleges and universities under scorched earth attacks for decidedly political reasons far removed from those facing new colleges today. I say I have never seen it.

In the first California gubernatorial election of 1966, Ronald Reagan reserved some of his anger at the University of California’s flagship campus, which he described as “that turmoil in Berkeley” where the radical free speech movement flourished. He fired the president of the University of California’s board of trustees at the panel’s first meeting in 1967, which Reagan attended as the state’s newly installed governor.

But Berkley survived the episode with its reputation intact. According to one scholar, what happened 56 years ago is a small beer compared to what is currently unfolding in the Sunshine State.

“DeSantis makes Reagan look like an advocate for academic freedom,” said Brian Rosenberg, a visiting professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and president emeritus of Macalester College in Minnesota. I have never seen a governor building the political foundations of a school send a team tasked with changing everything from school curricula to departments to departments.”

Some New College graduates are one of its biggest boosters. X González uses the they/them pronouns and will graduate in May 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal arts, demonstrating the school’s tolerance for diverse gender identities and the lack of existing majors of 50 or more. But I valued the freedom to design my own area of ​​focus. It suited their academic curiosity and ambitions.

González also loved the fact that, instead of giving students grades, faculty members produced detailed written evaluations under the supervision of each student. “It was dramatically better than any other situation I’ve encountered,” said his 23-year-old in the Parkland school shooting that killed three staff members and 14 of his students. said the survivor. “New College is a transparent, transgender and queer school, which is one of the reasons why DeSantis planned this hostile takeover.”

Stark contrasting views about what New College should stand for came to mind on campus last Wednesday when Rufo and another director appointed by DeSantis met with faculty and students in separate sessions. In his well-tailored blue business suit and with a neatly trimmed beard, Rufo toned down his rhetoric significantly and established himself as a lifelong apostle of his liberal arts education.

“I don’t want my views to become the new stifling orthodoxy on campus,” he told faculty amid giggles that could be heard in the auditorium. “We want to create a space for conservative students, liberal students, and Marxist students. Hmm.”

However, some faculty members and students indicated that they were not going to drink that Kool-Aid anytime soon. , focused on advancing the Christian and anti-science agenda,” said Riley Wood, a 19-year-old computer science student who asked Rufo the question.

Wood added: “Their belief in open debate is really just a convenient framework for the forced introduction of right-wing ideology into schools, and is quickly removed as soon as it fails to achieve that goal.”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/jan/29/ron-desantis-florida-university-new-college-woke-war ‘Hostile Takeover’: Small Florida University Ron DeSantis Targeted by Ron DeSantis

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