Ron DeSantis previews 2024 in takeover of Florida college


CC/Gage Skidmore

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is facing backlash after installing conservative board members at a small Florida liberal arts college.

Patrick Kane, World News Editor

Since winning re-election by a landslide this past November, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has seemingly doubled down on his increasingly conservative cultural rhetoric and policies in his self-described “war on woke.” Recently, his latest target seems to be the Florida university system.

The ground zero for DeSantis’ war on so-called left-wing education is New College, a small liberal arts college in Sarasota, Florida. The school, which has quite a progressive reputation in the state, has only roughly 700 students and boasts a tolerant campus atmosphere for LGBTQ+ individuals. However, in the last few months, DeSantis and his administration have previously used the school as a case study in how to change higher education in Florida.

DeSantis initially appointed six new members to the school’s Board of Trustees including the former dean of the conservative Hillsdale College as well as Christopher Rufo, a controversial conservative activist who has led a one-man crusade across the country against the supposed reaching of critical race theory and “gender ideology” in schools. The new board immediately moved to fire the college’s president, Patricia Okker, and to replace her with Richard Corcoran who served as Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives as well as DeSantis’ Education Commissioner.

The alleged hostile takeover of New College prompted many students and faculty to openly protest the state’s actions against the school, especially when one new trustee proposed a blanket firing of all faculty and staff only to then rehire a select few they believed “fit in” with their new model. As a result, some anonymous threats have been levied against the school.

Derek Black, one of the school’s most noteworthy alumni, spoke out against DeSantis’ takeover. Black, the son of one of the nation’s most prominent white supremacists, credits New College with deradicalizing him and introducing him to individuals from other backgrounds.

“[Florida is] trying to undo the small progress making New College a better home for its community. It feels very personal,” he tweeted.

DeSantis, who is widely considered to be a frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, has waged a campaign against so-called wokeness for several years but has reached its acme after his 20-point re-election in 2022. DeSantis has also called for the ending of diversity and inclusion programs in Florida universities as well as imposing a new statewide curriculum mandating “actual history and actual philosophy that have shaped Western civilization.”

Tate Farinacci’25, a self-described political independent, spoke to The Carroll News regarding DeSantis’ supposed takeover.

“…Governor DeSantis’ actions at New College are incredibly concerning. DeSantis’ replacement of New college’s leadership demonstrates a lack of respect for the Constitution and students’ rights, regardless of his intent. Fortunately, New College is a public university, so the Constitution protects their freedom of speech at school.”

“The Supreme Court ruled in Healy v. James that “state colleges and universities are not enclaves immune from the sweep of the First Amendment. . . the precedents of this Court leave no room for the view that. . . First Amendment protections should apply with less force on college campuses than in the community at large…This case affirms students’ rights to freedom of speech and expression at public universities and colleges.”

He concluded, “I can’t entirely agree with the concern of ‘right-wing indoctrination,’ but I see the problems with this apparent attack on freedom. DeSantis’ actions need to be investigated further, and I hope that the public will understand that regardless of party affiliation, what DeSantis did is questionable and, in my opinion, wrong.“