February 17, 2023
Conservatives denounced left-wing bias among the news media and elite thinkers for decades before acting to alter the landscape. By founding Fox News and think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, they expanded the reach of conservative voices in America — and counterbalanced what was once a liberal tilt.
Now, some conservatives are following a similar playbook to change higher education. Hillsdale College, the small, conservative Christian school in southern Michigan, has expanded its Washington, D.C., campus to try to reach more students. Conservatives have also claimed victories over more established institutions: After the College Board altered its Advanced Placement course in African American studies this month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suggested his administration had driven the changes.
But DeSantis has aimed broader than the College Board. He recently announced proposals to transform Florida’s public universities. He has called for an end to diversity programs and for weaker tenure protections for professors. And he installed conservatives as leaders of New College of Florida, a small public school in Sarasota.
“The new leadership has said explicitly that they want to change the ideology of the school,” said my colleague Patricia Mazzei, The Times’s Miami bureau chief. “It’s become a test case.”
Today’s newsletter will look at what DeSantis is doing — and why he may have a hard time succeeding.