DeSantis Aims to Turn Public College Into ‘Hillsdale of the South’
Inside Higher Ed
January 11, 2023
In his first term as Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis sought to reshape higher education at the state level, pushing changes to accreditation requirements and tenure while requiring widely criticized intellectual diversity surveys and limiting diversity, equity and inclusion instruction in public colleges.
Freshly re-elected, he’s now shaking up higher ed at the campus level, aiming to transform the state’s public liberal arts college in the image of one of the country’s most visible private Christian colleges.
“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 told The Daily Caller.
On Friday, DeSantis appointed six new trustees at NCF: Christopher Rufo, Matthew Spalding, Charles R. Kesler, Mark Bauerlein, Debra Jenks and Eddie Speir. Of those, the first four are well-known conservative academics or activists who appear to live outside Florida.
Arguably the most prominent of the trustees is Rufo, who gained national attention for his campaign against the obscure academic concept of critical race theory, often conflating it with diversity, equity and inclusion programs and fueling a conservative backlash against DEI efforts.
Spalding, a dean at Hillsdale College, and Kesler, a professor at Claremont McKenna College, were both part of the Trump administration’s 1776 Commission, which produced a widely panned rebuttal to The New York Times’s “1619 Project.” Bauerlein, a professor at Emory University, has long been an advocate for classical education, arguing for the need to improve civics education. According to a news release announcing the new trustees, only two appear to live in Florida: Jenks is an NCF graduate and local lawyer, and Speir is the founder of a private K-12 school.