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Keeping College Campus Radicals In Check Is Possible. Here’s How We Did It In Florida

America’s academic leaders seem powerless only because they’ve spent decades promoting the ideologies now on such brutal and ugly display.

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The scenes unfolding at America’s most prestigious colleges are horrific. Antisemitic mobs preaching genocide — at times crossing the line into actual violence — have rendered campuses unsafe for Jews. Faculty members cheer them on, advocating for full-on pogroms.

Top administrators flounder. Columbia had protesters arrested and suspended, then stood dumbfounded as a larger, more belligerent wave took their place. Unable to guarantee the physical safety of its students, the school moved all classes online. Copycat mobs on campuses across America formed to emulate that “success.”

Most Americans find these scenes shocking, and many administrators claim to be stunned. Yet those of us who’ve been following the disastrous decline of American higher education have been warning for years about the inevitable. America’s academic leaders seem powerless only because they’ve spent decades promoting the ideologies now on such brutal and ugly display.

Years ago, America’s most prestigious academics made a conscious choice to elevate indoctrination over education. Training activists became their highest goal. Radical ideologies that began in Ethnic and Gender Studies swallowed once-proud social science and humanities disciplines.

Their influence surged into administration, as new DEI offices redefined diversity, equity, and inclusion to mean their opposites, then spread their toxin throughout university operations. Wildly generous foreign money — with Qatar and China in the lead — anchored this noxious brew in place.

Unwitting parents sent America’s top students into four-year immersive environments saturated with division, hatred, mindless obedience, contempt for dissenting views, and zealotry. Their idiosyncratic notion of social justice, like so many of its morally degenerate predecessors, singled out the Jews for particular opprobrium. For those of us who’ve been watching this corruption unfold, nothing about the current moment seems surprising.

Over the past five years, however, the scope of the problem has grown to the point that both the broad American public and our political leaders understand the need for action. President Trump’s executive orders recognizing Jews as a protected class under civil rights law and banning DEI training from the federal workforce laid important groundwork.

Last year, Gov. Ron DeSantis positioned Florida’s public colleges at the forefront of the long overdue drive to reform American higher education. He placed New College of Florida, where I am privileged to work, at its vanguard.

New College became the first college to eliminate its DEI office. We took steps to curb a gender studies program that had involved a stunning 40 percent of our faculty. We instituted an athletics program that emphasized teamwork, discipline, character, and community.

Immediate results included record-breaking enrollment, a significant increase in minority students, a male/female balance closer to parity, and a far healthier campus environment. Applications poured in from reform-minded faculty eager to join an institution recommitted to true education. In a year marked by campus riots across the country, New College has been a model of calm, civility, and collegiality.

Our Socratic Stage Dialogs have tackled Israel’s war with Hamas and the meaning of academic freedom in an open and respectful forum. Returning students who had eyed both the new reform leadership and the newly arrived athletes warily have discovered that far from finding the ideologues they’d been warned to expect, we’re delivering the genuine diversity of perspectives central to a liberal arts education.

Earlier this year, in response to Harvard alum and donor Bill Ackman’s open letter to the leadership of his alma mater, I declared our campus a haven for Harvard refugees. Shortly thereafter, DeSantis offered asylum at Florida’s colleges to students facing religious discrimination on their home campuses — including waivers to ease their transfer and arrival in the state.

Because Jewish students are currently bearing the brunt of such discrimination, we’re particularly proud of the steps we’ve taken to ensure that they feel safe, welcome, and appreciated at New College.

Next fall, for the first time since the pandemic, we’ll have a Hillel director. A local Chabad rabbi who joined our students for Chanukah programming is eager to offer more instruction. We’re working to accommodate incoming students who’ve requested Kosher food, just as we accommodated the needs of our Muslim students during Ramadan. By next fall, we’re expecting to see a few yarmulkes on campus, and we’re excited about additions to our Judaic Studies faculty.

Our outreach and commitment to these students who are clearly no longer welcome, appreciated, or even safe on far too many prestigious campuses is representative of the broad movement to reform higher education. We’re eager to attract proud, confident young members of America’s many communities. We encourage them to express their identities openly. We invite them to relish every campus interaction as an opportunity to learn and to teach. We challenge them to represent themselves in the most positive light so that anyone who gets to know them will emerge with an elevated impression of the communities to which they belong.

That’s the true meaning of our reform movement. We’re out to build the colorblind melting pot America strived to be during many of its finest years. The process begins with education. New College is training students in critical thinking, civil discourse, the free exchange of ideas, pride and confidence in self, and acceptance and appreciation of others. We call upon all decent Americans of good faith to join us: Send your students where they can become educated in safety rather than indoctrinated through hatred.


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