Governor DeSantis appoints Conservative Leaders into Florida Public Colleges

Brooke Wilensky, Copy Editor

In late 2022, the University of Florida (UF) announced that Ben Sasse, a conservative senator of Nebraska, was to become the president of the university. More recently, Governor Ron DeSantis appointed six conservatives to the board of trustees of the New College of Florida.

Sasse’s appointment as president was rapidly met with protests from UF’s student body and faculty. Political groups have organized a protest against Sasse in public areas and created petitions. 

This is part of DeSantis’ second-term goal to eradicate “woke ideologies” in the classroom through his “Stop WOKE Act.” Additionally, DeSantis is requiring Florida colleges to submit information regarding the resources being placed into activities related to diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) and critical race theory by Jan. 13. Currently, it is unknown what will be done with the information.

This is related to DeSantis’ objective to change diversity, equity and inclusion into equality, merit and colorblindness

“It is pretty worrying because education is supposed to be something that is away from bias, and having someone who is in such a position of power, like DeSantis, suddenly wanting to change things so they can keep away a ‘liberal agenda’ is something I never thought we would see,” Miami Palmetto Senior High School senior and aspiring Florida public college attendee Sophia Tomzak said.

The DeSantis administration also announced their goal of turning New College into the “Hillsdale of the South.” Hillsdale College is a private conservative Christian liberal arts school in Michigan. This has been met with protests from New College students, as the school is largely considered to be one of the most progressive schools in Florida.

The new board of trustees consists of Christopher Rufo, a conservative activist, and Matthew Spalding, a government professor at Hillsdale.

“It is kind of crazy that a conservative is now going to be in charge of New College because it is a very liberal school,” Tomzak said.

DeSantis’ press secretary, Blake Griffin, claimed that New College is captured by a political ideology prioritizing trendy concepts over learning. DeSantis’ appointment to the board of trustees underscored his agenda to change the school to a classical liberal arts model and restructure the administration and the mission statement.

Protestors have shown up outside meetings of Sarasota County’s legislative delegation. The protestors consist of alumni, parents, current students and others. At the meeting, Sarasota Senator Joe Gruters said the appointments are not an attempt to “overtake” the school, but rather a way to save New College.

DeSantis’ appointments were not only met with protests. The search committee that chose Sasse unanimously chose him as the next president. This choice was also generally met with praise from professors and politicians.