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February 8, 2023

DeSantis Seeks to Restore Higher Ed’s Original Mission

If passed, the Florida governor’s public university reforms could serve as a model for red states across the nation.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis laid the groundwork last week for sweeping reforms to the state’s public university system. These commonsense changes are targeted at making higher education more functional and accountable and returning universities to their traditional role of preparing students for the real world instead of serving as reeducation camps for the Left.

In remarks he delivered at the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, DeSantis revealed legislative proposals designed to return the state’s university system to its original mission of education.

“There’s really a debate about what is the purpose of higher education, particularly publicly funded higher education systems,” DeSantis said. “You have the dominant view, which I think is not the right view, to impose ideological conformity, to provoke political activism. Instead, we need our higher education systems to promote academic excellence.”

Key reforms include blocking higher ed from using any funding regardless of its source to support DEI, CRT, and other discriminatory initiatives; giving presidents and boards of trustees total ownership over hiring and retaining faculty without interference from unions and faculty groups; and giving presidents and boards the power to conduct at-will faculty performance reviews.

DeSantis has also called for prioritizing STEM and business programs that will benefit students and the state of Florida and for a return to prioritizing course content “to ensure higher education rooted in the values of liberty and western tradition.” This would include refocusing civic institutes at the University of Florida, Florida International University, and Florida State University to educate students on the values of liberty and constitutionalism.

As one might expect, these reforms to return publicly funded higher education to its rightful place in society were met with insults and attacks throughout academia and across the Left. Many of the tirades accused DeSantis of doing what leftists have been doing for decades: engaging in a culture war, inserting ideology into education, politicizing the universities, and so on.

It’s worth pointing out the sheer arrogance on display when leftists express indignance at DeSantis’s proposals. They only want government involved in education when it suits their specific goals. They seem to forget that taxpayer money funds the public institutions DeSantis proposes to fix. The government and the citizens are well within their right to demand an accountable public university system that pays back their investment by turning out well-educated, free-thinking graduates with marketable skills that can improve the state’s economic and social well-being.

For decades, those on the Left have put a stranglehold on higher ed. They’ve chosen like-minded faculty, shut down voices and ideas that run counter to their own, and used the university as a springboard from which to push an elitist, anti-American, top-down social order on the nation. If DeSantis’s reform proposals succeed, all that could come crashing down — and not just in Florida.

DeSantis won reelection last year by 19 points, and he’s widely seen as a top GOP contender for the White House next year. His reforms make sense with a taxpaying public that no longer reflexively agrees that college is a worthwhile investment.

Leftist academia, though, won’t give up its greatest weapon in the culture war without a fight. This time, though, in Ron DeSantis, the Left has met a fighter eager to take up the challenge.

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