https://www.theepochtimes.com/uproar-ensues-as-floridas-desantis-engineers-conservative-overhaul-of-progressive-college_4985010.html

White student facing discrimination on New York university campus applauds Governor’s move

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ announcement that he intends to turn a flailing liberal public university into the Sunshine State’s answer to Hillsdale College has drawn fierce criticism from progressives.

A plethora of headlines shows that the Republican governor has struck a nerve.

“Ron DeSantis’s New College Coup is Doomed to Fail,” wrote the Chronicle of Higher Education, and “A Florida College Goes to War With Ron DeSantis” reads another from The New Republic, a left-wing online publication.

This month, DeSantis, who is widely expected to run for president in 2024, overhauled the foundering New College of Florida by appointing six new conservatives to its board of trustees.

The liberal arts college has been plagued by low student enrollment and financial problems. The college, located in Sarasota, fell far short of its stated goal to reach 1,200 enrolled students, declining recently from 800 to about 660.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis celebrates his reelection with his wife, Casey, and their children at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Fla., on Nov. 8, 2022. (Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

The governor also mandated that public universities report their expenditures for critical race theory (CRT) and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs. The move immediately drew a legal challenge, which was dismissed.

The Dec. 28 order from DeSantis came four days after The Epoch Times documented the experiences of six conservative students attending a major Florida university. The students described difficulties in seeking an education in what they described as an anti-white, anti-Christian, and anti-American culture.

Meanwhile, the Florida Legislature appears to want to take the accounting even further.

Florida House Speaker Paul Renner requested emails, text messages, and social media posts from Florida university DEI offices sent between Jan. 1, 2021, to Jan. 12 of this year.

Stopping ‘Woke’

The problem with New College of Florida and many other institutions of higher learning is they are no longer focused on academics, DeSantis’ press secretary, Bryan Griffin, told The Epoch Times.

Florida universities actively promote the Marxist-based CRT, according to the Critical Race Training in Education database maintained by the Legal Insurrection Foundation.

The database lists CRT programs at universities and schools nationwide.

Epoch Times Photo
New students attending orientation at the University of Florida stroll past a metal sculpture on campus unofficially known as “The French Fries” on June 6, 2022. (Nanette Holt/The Epoch Times)

The Florida students spoke anonymously to The Epoch Times and described their frustration with a hostile environment for conservatives on campus and in classrooms.

They described feeling uncomfortable, at best, and threatened, at worst.

Their accounts described a campus culture focused on race and social justice, with open hostility for conservative or Christian views. They asked to use pseudonyms to protect their identity, fearing retaliation for speaking publicly, they said.

One law student was reported as an extremist to the FBI and was visited by agents for questioning. He assumed it was because someone overheard him express his Christian beliefs and his support for the Second Amendment.

The experiences the students described happened even after DeSantis signed into law Florida’s Stop WOKE Act in April 2022. Among other things, the law bans colleges from promoting CRT.

Students and professors sued over the ban, and federal judge Mark Walker issued a preliminary injunction against enforcing the law.

The same federal judge sided with DeSantis on Jan. 12, though, over his request for information about university expenditures on CRT and DEI programs. Walker ruled that the administration’s move was not in violation of the injunction against enforcement of the Stop WOKE Act.

Epoch Times Photo
A statue of Karl Marx is seen in the building of the Corvinus University in Budapest on Sept. 4, 2014. The ‘Corvinus’ was renamed in 1953 as Karl Marx University and it was a base of the country’s Marxist intellectual elite in the socialist era. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images)

Public universities aren’t alone in pushing CRT, which divides people into oppressors and victims based on skin color or gender identity.

It’s a trend that’s swept across the nation, experts and students have told The Epoch Times.

A student at an elite private university in New York, who spoke with The Epoch Times on the condition of anonymity, described a racially discriminatory and segregated educational environment for white students.

“Most of all, I felt really shocked, especially at my classmates going along with the discrimination and bullying, as if it was OK to treat other human beings like that,” said the student, who is being identified as Beth, an alias.

In one class, her black professor segregated white students from brown and black classmates, Beth said. Meanwhile, Beth said, white students were told to “reflect on their whiteness,” while minority students were given instructions on assignments.

She said the curriculum was mainly about “anti-black racism,” which had little to do with the class on social services.

critical race theory protest
People hold up signs objecting to critical race theory (CRT) being taught in area schools during a protest outside the Loudoun County Government center in Leesburg, Va., on June 12, 2021. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

In a required presentation to the class, a fellow white student spoke about black stereotypes, which was part of an assignment, Beth said. The professor abruptly shut down the student’s presentation for being “offensive.”

The girl became distraught and began to cry in front of the class, apparently shocked and confused about what she’d done wrong, Beth said. The professor didn’t immediately explain and did nothing to console her.

Another young white student shared in class how much she now hates herself for “being white,” Beth said.

And Beth said she was ridiculed by a Hispanic student when asking a question about an assignment involving a racial topic. The Hispanic student said it was important to speak “very simply to white people” to explain things about culture and race.

The Hispanic student appeared to belittle and fault white students for not knowing enough about different races and ethnicities, and implied they were just “taking up space,” Beth said.

The minority students in the class seemed to enjoy the attention of being “oppressed,” Beth said. That status seemed to give them a sense of power over white students, she said.

“The hate they have in their hearts towards whites is also shocking,” she said.

‘Trendy’ Concepts Above Learning

Beth said she would welcome the chance to attend a college like the one DeSantis hopes to reinvent in Florida.

DeSantis announced on Jan. 6 the appointment of a who’s who of conservatives to the New College board of trustees. They are Christopher Rufo, a Manhattan Institute fellow who has exposed CRT in schools nationwide; Matthew Spalding, a dean and professor at Hillsdale College; Charles R. Kesler, editor of the Claremont Review of Books; Mark Bauerlein, a professor and author; Debra Jenks, a New College alumna and Florida securities mediation lawyer; and Jason “Eddie” Speir, founder of the Inspiration Academy in Florida.

New College of Florida’s focus had strayed far from its purpose of providing an education, Griffin said.

“Like so many colleges and universities in America, New College of Florida has been completely captured by a political ideology that puts trendy, truth-relative concepts above learning,” he said.

New College of Florida has publicly committed to “eliminating outcome disparities for underrepresented and underserved groups,” Griffin said.

Epoch Times Photo
Christopher Rufo, filmmaker, policy researcher, and writer. (Courtesy of Christopher Rufo)

So the college is admitting that it will adjust outcomes based on non-academic factors of their choosing, Griffin said.

The new trustees, which the Florida Senate must approve, are committed to refocusing the institution on “academics and truth,” so that students can receive a quality education, he said.

“The campus will become a place for learning and discourse, as it was designed to be.”

Battling Socialism

The most important story in the last half-century has been socialism’s “long march through the institutions,” Rufo wrote in a Jan. 12 article in City Journal.

Intellectuals were inspired by Italian communist Antonio Gramsci and New Left philosopher Herbert Marcuse and sought to embed their ideas in education, government, philanthropy, media, and other vital sectors of society, Rufo wrote.

Now, the long march is complete, and reversing it will take a lot of work, Rufo continued.

“This process came to spectacular fruition following the 2020 death of George Floyd, when it seemed that every prestige institution in the United States got busy advancing the same ideological line on race, gender, and culture,” Rufo wrote.

Epoch Times Photo
Demonstrators jump on a secret service police car outside the White House in Washington during a protest over the death of George Floyd on May 30, 2020. (Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images)

DeSantis took the step last week of reversing the long march through the institutions, beginning with the “cradle of revolution”—the university, Rufo wrote.

Historian Daniel Boorstin observed in 1968 that the activists of the New Left, or what conservatives would consider woke ideology today, were “the new barbarians,” who rejected the ideals of the American Founding Fathers, and sought to tear down society, Rufo wrote.

In his role at New College of Florida, Rufo hopes to build a classical curriculum. He also hopes to abolish DEI programs and replace them with “equality, merit, and colorblindness” principles.

And he’d like the school to adopt the Kalven statement on institutional neutrality, which honors freedom of expression in higher education.

Rufo would advocate for restructuring the administration and academic departments, recruiting new faculty with expertise in the classical liberal arts tradition, and establishing a graduate school for training teachers in classical education.

He hopes the changes will serve as a model that can be followed to reshape universities around the country.

“The Left’s permanent bureaucracy will be dead-set against this gambit,” Rufo wrote, “but if it succeeds, a new era for higher education—and the country—is possible.”

Darlene McCormick Sanchez

Darlene McCormick Sanchez reports for The Epoch Times from Texas. She writes on a variety of issues with a focus on Texas politics, election fraud, and the erosion of traditional values. She previously worked as an investigative reporter and covered crime, courts, and government for newspapers in Texas, Florida, and Connecticut. Her work on The Sinful Messiah series, which exposed Branch Davidians leader David Koresh, was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist for investigative reporting in the 1990s.

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