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Lawsuit Against New College Of Florida Is About Maintaining Leftist Domination Of Academia

A lot is riding on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ effort to transform a single, small state college into one that is not a bastion of leftist orthodoxy.


Given the left’s near-total control of academia, you might think the transformation of one tiny state college into a rare example of one that is not a bastion of woke conformity wouldn’t bother them much.

But the leftist establishment, which has a stranglehold on academia and the corporate media, understands the stakes involved in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ initiative to remake the New College of Florida. If even one small and heretofore struggling public institution of higher learning can be successfully changed into one that eschews the prevailing orthodoxies that are the rule almost everywhere else, it will set an example that might be emulated elsewhere in the country.

That is why students and professors at New College, which is located in Sarasota, have filed a lawsuit in federal court against its trustees, interim president, and state education officials. They want to stop the implementation of a recently passed state law prohibiting colleges from using course curricula to indoctrinate students in cultural Marxist dogma such as critical race theory (CRT) and the woke catechism of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The plaintiffs claim the legislation is an affront to academic freedom and will “chill” the ability of departments and professors to mainstream gender and queer studies, as is currently the case at virtually every other American college and university.

While their lawsuit is legally dubious, their purpose is clear. Flipping New College from one of the most left-wing campuses in Florida is a lethal threat to the leftist establishment. Leftists oppose the initiative to return the Western canon to its rightful place at the heart of a liberal arts education and to reject the pseudo-scholarship that masquerades under the title of ethnic and gender studies, along with the CRT and DEI programs that are the pillars of woke academics.

By engaging in both lawfare and by mobilizing the media to pour scorn on DeSantis and his reformist appointees, opponents’ goal is not only to challenge the GOP-controlled Florida government’s ability to change state schools. This is also a warning to every other college board in the country that any attempt to turn back the woke tide that has seized control of education in this country will be met with efforts to bankrupt them.

A Potential Turning Point

Nor should it be missed that the willingness of Democrats to use their power to seek to silence and jail former President Donald Trump in a series of politically motivated prosecutions will be the same for other dissenters from the regime’s diktats about what is permissible speech or conduct.

Seen in that light, the battle over the future of the once-obscure New College is not a skirmish intended to undermine DeSantis’ boast that Florida is where “woke goes to die.” Rather, it is a potential turning point in the attempt by conservatives and defenders of Western civilization to roll back the leftist takeover of higher education that took place in the post-World War II era.

Few had heard of New College prior to DeSantis’ appointment of six conservatives to the school’s board, including author and Manhattan Institute scholar Chris Rufo and conservative Hillsdale College dean Matthew Spalding, with the stated intention of making it the “Hillsdale of the South.” But those who were aware of the 700-student school’s existence understood it was a failing institution with a terrible reputation.

As The New Yorker observed, “Consultants’ reports found that the top words students associated with New College’s culture were ‘politically correct,’ ‘druggies,’ and ‘weirdos.’” It also reported that recent data showed that the college accepted 75 percent of applicants, but enrolled only 13 percent of those who were accepted. Worse than that, 20 percent of students dropped out before the end of their first year; another third were not employed or in graduate school a year after they got their degree. The median starting salary for graduates was $32,000. As Rufo has said, these dismal figures are the product of “a culture that valued protest and activism over work.”

From that perspective, almost any change at the state-funded New College would seem to be a good idea. But DeSantis’ willingness to use his power as governor, reinforced by the support of a GOP-controlled legislature, to reimagine the school set off shock waves on the political left.

Neo-Marxist Gaslighting

The claim that academic freedom is under attack in Florida by those involved in the lawsuit by the teachers and students, as well as a separate proceeding in which a professor of Caribbean/Latin American Studies and Music was denied tenure, is classic neo-Marxist gaslighting. Throughout the United States, in almost every college and university, including those counted as bastions of cultured elitism, courses in the classics are being canceled while ethnic and gender studies departments have proliferated. Just as important, it is a well-known fact that young conservative scholars must keep their opinions a secret if they wish to keep their jobs, let alone receive tenure.

Moreover, throughout the academic world, CRT and DEI are virtually unchallenged orthodoxies. The same is true for interpretations of American and Western history that follow the line of The New York Times “1619 Project,” which stems from CRT teachings, and treats as truth the intersectional myth that the United States is an irredeemably racist country.

But contrary to the delusions of New College’s leftist students and faculty or their cheering sections at publications such as The New York Times and The New Yorker, there is no legal imperative that requires Florida’s public colleges to teach any of that. While one could argue that interference with a professor’s ability to teach a course in the manner that he or she sees fit might constitute an infringement of their academic freedom, there is no constitutional right to gender or ethnic studies or any other department or course that is drenched in neo-Marxist propaganda.

Nor is there an obligation on the part of a public college to enforce the kind of racial quotas associated with DEI that do so much to undermine race relations.

The New College reformers are already taking heat from liberal pundits who are pouring scorn on them for their decision to start an athletic program. That’s part of an effort to restore at least some semblance of a gender balance at a school that is currently two-thirds female, a figure far in excess of the national average campus population, which is already tilted toward women.

An Example to Other States

By seeking to create a Hillsdale-style Western canon curriculum as well as to promote its efforts to replace the “1619” myth about American history with one rooted in the “1776” narrative in a public school, Florida is setting an example that could be emulated in other red states, where, to date, governors and legislators have lacked the interest or courage to challenge the left-wing academic establishment. And given the dominance of leftists on private college boards of directors, the best way to create more Hillsdales would be for governors who often have the power to influence the administration of state schools to use it to push back against the left.

It’s in that context that the various lawfare gambits being tried against New College should be viewed.

The left never hesitates to use power to put their ideas into action, no matter how radical they might be. Conservatives must do the same, which is why DeSantis’ anti-woke offensive against Disney and public elementary and secondary school woke indoctrination is a test case to see if such an effort can succeed. If New College can be prevented from changing, it will be a green light to school administrations everywhere to crack down even harder on dissent from non-leftists. But if it succeeds, then New College might be just the first example of a beachhead for liberty and sanity in American academia.

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