The other day in comments, the fallout from Florida Gov. DeSantis’s gleeful vandalism of the state’s public university system came up, and I mentioned that for me, no act of sabotage had been sadder to witness. Florida attracts a lot of sneering, and oftentimes rightly so, but the state’s public university system was no joke. Building a high quality system was the work of generations.
DeSantis himself left the state to get fancy degrees at Harvard and Yale and will probably send his own children north of the Mason-Dixon line to receive an elite education. But most Floridians don’t have that option, and at the rate the governor is vandalizing the system for political gain, a quality public education may no longer be available in Florida for the next generation. The latest:
Gov. Ron DeSantis has appointed conservative activist Christopher Rufo and five others to the New College of Florida Board of Trustees in his continuing move to eliminate “political ideology” from public higher education.
With the six new members of the school’s Board of Trustees, the DeSantis admin plans to weed out concepts like diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and critical race theory (CRT). The move comes amid low student enrollment at the New College of Florida and as DeSantis ramps up his second term.
In a statement Friday, DeSantis Communications Director Taryn Fenske said New College has been “completely captured by a political ideology that puts trendy, truth-relative concepts above learning.”
“Starting today, the ship is turning around,” DeSantis Press Secretary Bryan Griffin continued. “New College of Florida, under the Governor’s new appointees, will be refocused on its founding mission of providing a world-class quality education with an exceptional focus on the classics.”
New College is affordable and has a great academic reputation. Soon, it won’t. And Rufo isn’t even the worst appointee, as difficult as that may be to believe:
Rounding out the list is Matthew Spalding, dean of Hillsdale College D.C. campus’ Graduate School of Government. Hillsdale College is a private conservative liberal arts college that the DeSantis administration is referencing as its model for transforming New College.
“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,” DeSantis Chief of Staff James Uthmeier said in a statement.
Fucking Hillsdale. It’s a Michigan-based private college that was founded by abolitionists, but now it’s a grifty propaganda outfit that monetizes racism, fear and ignorance so it can hoover up public dollars via charter school schemes. Tennessee recently beat back a bid to open a charter school chain within its borders when Hilldale officials’ gross racist remarks and contempt for educators came to light.
I don’t imagine Floridians will rise up like Tennesseans did to oppose the Hillsdale-ification of their schools. A majority of citizens here just don’t seem to give a shit. And even if the citizens of this state wise up and elect someone who cares about public education in 2026, the damage that’s already being done will be immense, it will take years to recover, and we’ll all suffer from the ongoing brain drain.
I’m so disgusted and sad about it, so on that cheery note, I plan to go have a glass of wine on the porch, look at the river for a while and thank my lucky stars that my parents’ generation, my generation and my kiddo’s generation got our public education in Florida before the wrecking crew arrived. Cheers!