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Friday, May 24, 2024

DeSantis Transforming a Progressive Fla. College With Trustee Appointments

'Conservatives have the opportunity finally to demonstrate an effective countermeasure against the long march through institutions...'

(Headline USA) “Your education. Your way. Be original. Be you.”

That’s how New College of Florida describes its approach to higher education in an admission brochure. The state school of fewer than 1,000 students nestled along Sarasota Bay has long been known for its progressive thought and creative course offerings that don’t use traditional grades.

New College’s reputation as a haven for originality and individualized coursework is now threatened. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ recently appointed six new trustees who intend to turn the school into a classical liberal arts school modeled after conservative favorite Hillsdale College in Michigan.

One new trustee, Manhattan Institute senior fellow Christopher Rufo, said in a column on his website that the governor wants the group to accomplish what he calls “institutional recapture,” which would move New College away from such things as diversity, equity and inclusion programs and teaching of critical race theory — the idea that racism is enmeshed in U.S. society.

“Ours is a project of recapture and reinvention,” Rufo wrote, listing several ways he believes left-wing ideas have permeated universities across the country. “Conservatives have the opportunity finally to demonstrate an effective countermeasure against the long march through institutions.”

The governor’s appointment of the New College trustees, including a government professor at Hillsdale College, are only one part of DeSantis’ effort to shift Florida’s 28 state-funded institutions of higher learning in a more conservative direction. The moves come as DeSantis considers a potential 2024 presidential campaign in which education culture battles could play a prominent part, particularly in a Republican primary.

These efforts include a memo DeSantis sent to all Florida colleges and universities requiring them to list programs and staff involved in diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, initiatives. The governor signed legislation last April to change the accreditation method for Florida schools and heighten performance review of tenured professors.

During his second inaugural address earlier this month, DeSantis said his goal is to “ensure that our institutions of higher learning are focused on academic excellence and the pursuit of truth, not the imposition of trendy ideology.”

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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