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Tipsheet

NYT Details What Happens When There's a 'Right-Wing' Takeover at a College

AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo, Pool

The liberal media’s obsession with Ron DeSantis has been well-established. DeSantis is catching hell from all sides, though more so from the Trump camp, as he’s a potential 2024 presidential candidate. The New York Times opinion section has an axe to grind with him because he’s turning Florida into an economically vibrant conservative oasis. It’s the state where far-left activism dies a quick death. His latest move involves remaking the board of trustees at a public college, with liberal writer Michelle Goldberg offering warnings for what happens when conservatives take over a higher learning institution. Spoiler alert: nothing changes. Even students and faculty interviewed admit the campus hasn’t changed, though they fear it will become Nuremberg c. 1939. The school we’re talking about is the New College of Florida in Sarasota, where DeSantis appointed multiple members to the board, which forced its president to resign and other faculty to consider transfers (via NYT): 

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This was in January, a few weeks after Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida appointed six activist conservatives, including the culture war strategist Chris Rufo, to New College’s board of trustees. Rufo, the ideological entrepreneur who made critical race theory a Republican boogeyman, was open about his ambition to turn the quirky, L.G.B.T.Q.-friendly liberal arts school into a public version of Hillsdale, a conservative Christian college in Michigan with close ties to both DeSantis and Donald Trump. He hoped the transformation would be proof of concept for his dream: a conservative takeover of higher education across the country. 

So when Rufo and another new trustee, Eddie Speir, the co-founder of a private Christian school called Inspiration Academy, arrived at New College for meetings with students and faculty, they were received with skepticism and hostility. But Lepinski, a computer science professor and the faculty representative on the board of trustees, was hopeful that they might figure out a way to work together, and he urged the school community to hear them out. 

In the ensuing months, there was concern among Lepinski’s colleagues that he wasn’t doing enough to stand up to their new overlords. “Some of us had been a little frustrated with his willingness to try and play nice,” Amy Reid, a French professor and the head of New College’s gender studies program, told me. But Lepinski believed in dialogue and compromise. “I thought maybe there was a path forward with this board where we could focus on the things that unite us instead of the things that divide us,” he said.

That’s why it was so striking when, at the end of a combative three-hour meeting on Wednesday in which the trustees rejected five tenure applications, Lepinski quit. He’s not just leaving the board, but New College altogether. “I can no longer see a way that I can be effective here, given the current board of trustees,” he said at an impromptu news conference afterward.

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Matthew Lepinski was the faculty chair at New College who told Goldberg he was willing to hear out the new ideas from the conservative board but served as the canary in the coal mine for the piece: this is what happens when you let those dirty Republicans run a school. Reading the piece is somewhat comical in the sense that nothing overly radical is happening on campus: 

As I was writing this on Friday, several people sent me photographs of gender-neutral signage scraped off school bathrooms. 

But day-to-day, students, parents, and professors told me, life at New College has been pretty much the same. Faculty have mostly been left alone to do their jobs. Corcoran, several professors said, was rarely on campus. Sam Sharf, who chose New College in part because she feels safe there as a trans woman, said that classroom discussions in her Politics of the African Diaspora and Alternatives to Capitalism classes haven’t changed, though she’s constantly aware that such subjects might soon be taboo, and is planning to transfer. 

The board is also doing terrible things, like recruiting student-athletes and trying to establish sports as part of the regular culture on campus. The nerve of these people, I tell you. This is just like Nazi Germany

It’s telling that if removing gender-neutral bathroom signs and rejecting lefty trash faculty to tenured positions is all that’s happening right now, you know this is a much-ado-about-nothing story. Liberals are just mad and scared that they’ve lost clout at New College, which shockingly is overwhelmingly white and wealthy. The words “artsy” and “queer” are used to describe the progressive institution, which barely has under 700 undergraduates attending. Also, nothing in the opinion piece would suggest any of those things would be outlawed or suppressed in any way. The fact that there’s been a conservative overhaul has these students quaking in their boots over nothing. The fact that people are fleeing for the hills because the leadership board is different says more about today’s liberals and why the snowflake moniker only applies to them.

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