Gov. DeSantis taps Christopher Rufo, 5 others to transform New College of Florida into ‘classical college’
Define 'woke.' Image via AP.

Ron DeSantis woke
The DeSantis administration wants to model New College on Hillsdale College.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has appointed conservative activist Christopher Rufo and five others to the New College of Florida Board of Trustees in his continuing move to eliminate “political ideology” from public higher education.

With the six new members of the school’s Board of Trustees, the DeSantis administration plans to weed out concepts like diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and critical race theory (CRT). The move comes amid low student enrollment at the New College of Florida and as DeSantis ramps up his second term.

In a statement Friday, DeSantis Communications Director Taryn Fenske said New College has been “completely captured by a political ideology that puts trendy, truth-relative concepts above learning.”

“Starting today, the ship is turning around,” DeSantis Press Secretary Bryan Griffin continued. “New College of Florida, under the Governor’s new appointees, will be refocused on its founding mission of providing a world-class quality education with an exceptional focus on the classics.”

Rufo, along with several of his fellow appointees, has been a driving force in the movement against CRT.

“I’m proud to announce that Gov. Ron DeSantis has appointed me to the Board of Trustees of the New College of Florida,” Rufo tweeted. “My ambition is to help the new board majority transform New College into a classical liberal arts institution. We are recapturing higher education.”

Others appointed Friday are Emory University professor Mark Bauerlein, Claremont-McKenna College professor Charles Kesler, attorney Debra Jenks and Inspiration Academy Co-Founder Jason “Eddie” Speir.

Rounding out the list is Matthew Spalding, dean of Hillsdale College D.C. campus’ Graduate School of Government. Hillsdale College is a private conservative liberal arts college that the DeSantis administration is referencing as its model for transforming New College.

“It is our hope that New College of Florida will become Florida’s classical college, more along the lines of a Hillsdale of the South,” DeSantis Chief of Staff James Uthmeier said in a statement.

New College, located in Sarasota, has been a topic of legislative debate in recent years as school enrollment has fallen into the hundreds and the cost of tuition is higher than Florida’s public higher education institutions. However, the school has said it is on pace to meet its enrollment targets.

Legislation proposed in 2020 would have reclassified the college as a satellite campus of Florida State University.

New College lists its mission statement and values on its website, including a section on its “just, diverse, equitable and inclusive community.”

“We seek a balance between recognizing and celebrating difference, respectfully supporting each other’s growth, and ensuring that historically marginalized and oppressed groups are not experiencing trauma and harm,” reads the section. “New College values equity and is actively working toward eliminating outcome disparities for underrepresented and underserved groups.”

Republican Party of Florida Vice Chair Christian Ziegler, a former Sarasota County Commissioner, commended DeSantis for taking action against the “liberal” school.

“Impossible to state just how bold and historical this action is,” he said in a statement. “It sets the tone that higher education can and will be reformed if conservative leaders are willing to step up, lead and act.”

DeSantis has emerged as a leader in the Republican Party, in part for his actions and rhetoric against fields of study like DEI or CRT and policies like environmental, social and governance investing criteria — more commonly called ESG. The Governor has criticized controversial topics as “woke ideology,” and did so again Tuesday during his second inaugural address.

“We must ensure that our institutions of higher learning are focused on academic excellence and the pursuit of truth, not the imposition of trendy ideology,” DeSantis said.

The appointments also come two days after the DeSantis administration confirmed the Florida Department of Education had asked state colleges and universities to compile lists of programs and campus activities relating to DEI and CRT ahead of the 2023 Legislative Session.

Sarasota Rep. Fiona McFarland is among the Republican officials who have come out praising the move, noting New College’s cost of enrollment. Another Representative, Orlando Democrat Anna V. Eskamani, called Rufo a “political propagandist” in a tweet.

“DeSantis is destroying higher education in Florida for his own political gain. It’s disgusting, bad for our workforce development (and) everyone — faculty, admin, alumni, students — need(s) to fight back,” Eskamani tweeted.

Meanwhile, New College President Patricia Okker welcomed the new appointees, who fill vacancies for terms that ended Friday.

“My thanks to the Governor for today’s announcement and for the slate of new board members,” said in a statement. “I look forward to getting to know them and working with them to ensure New College continues to serve our students, community, and state in the years to come.”

___

Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics contributed to this report.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


88 comments

  • Vince Edwards

    January 6, 2023 at 1:38 pm

    DeSantis wants to recreate Hillsdale College here in Florida. Pat Sajak is Chairman of Hillsdale College. Sajak’s contributions to America include being a disc jockey in Vietnam and producing “Wheel of Fortune.”

    DeSantis chose Eddie Speir among others to take over the New College Board. Speir is head of Inspiration Academy here in Florida, a sport-heavy school whose primary publisher is Bob Jones University Press. BJU books promote a biblical worldview. State universities cannot force a religious viewpoint on students. These associations will doom a good college to mediocrity.

    • TD

      January 6, 2023 at 2:39 pm

      Agree. The tell will be whether they try to gender segregate the dorms like they do at Hillsdale. That will be proof that it’s not about an ideology or philosophy but about fundamentalist Christianity.

      Even if they don’t go that far, how do they expect to avoid the inevitable discrimination lawsuits from existing employees, much less avoid having their new hires discriminated against by the now-bitter old guard? They are going to have to micromanage every personnel decision unless they go full Elon Musk and just fire 70% of the people.

      • Heath Brown

        January 8, 2023 at 7:35 am

        You think “gender segregated dorms” are an indicator of “fundamentalist Christianity”? Seriously? I attended college in the 1970s; every dorm on every campus was separated by gender. That was the norm.
        You know nothing.

        • CLF

          January 8, 2023 at 12:02 pm

          Me too. Dorms should still be segregated by birth gender. It was crazy to change that rule.

      • EdC

        January 8, 2023 at 10:22 am

        Going full Elon would be the best course.

        • That’s right

          January 8, 2023 at 3:05 pm

          “Going full Elon”

          Yeah run it like it’s a South African diamond mind without none of the profit.

          Just like Elon lol

      • Johnathan Galt

        January 8, 2023 at 3:02 pm

        Or perhaps just being sensible and trying to reduce the egregious rat of college rapes?

        That seems to make you sad.

        • Johnathan Galt

          January 8, 2023 at 3:03 pm

          “rat” = “rate,” no edit option…

    • Betty

      January 7, 2023 at 11:56 am

      Agree. DeSantis is going to create a group of indoctrinated students…… not ones who need to face the reality of life.

      • Steve Reynolds

        January 7, 2023 at 6:38 pm

        Seems to me the present DEI environment is what is attempting to indoctrinate students to be fragile and to take offence at anything that goes against woke ideology.
        That is the opposite of being ready to ‘face the reality of life’.

        • Mr. Haney

          January 7, 2023 at 7:24 pm

          How many hours a week do you spend in schools?

          • Boo Radley

            January 7, 2023 at 9:50 pm

            None but daily I’m seeing their rotten fruit.

        • cassandra

          January 7, 2023 at 10:34 pm

          You say: “fragile” LOL, Desantis’ WOKE obsession is all about protecting fragile straight, white, fundamentalist Christian males from feeling uncomfortable, and indoctrinating students with the lie that SWFCMs are inherently superior to everyone else.

          Sorry, but SWFCMs *HAVE* benefited from the system they designed and are desperately trying to hold onto as they watch it crumble. Too bad if you feel uncomfortable. Too bad if you feel guilty. Too bad if you “take offence” when women, minorities, and LGBTQ+ tell you to get your GD boots off their necks. Fragile SWFCMs need “to face the reality of life”. As MAGAs like to say, F your feelings. Crybabies.

          • EdC

            January 8, 2023 at 10:30 am

            You are reading wrong. It’s the wokeness that’s crumbling.

          • Johnathan Galt

            January 8, 2023 at 3:07 pm

            Facts don’t care about your feelings. That should be no problem for you, as you have no facts.

      • Susan

        January 7, 2023 at 9:01 pm

        Liberal Arts is not a ‘religious’ curriculum. Hillsdale College (here in MI) is a very good institution. Why is it being attacked when most commenters know nothing about it or what it stands for? Not everyone wants the same type of education as others so let’s celebrate diversity.

        • cassandra

          January 8, 2023 at 12:03 am

          Hillsdale is a religious school. Looks like the plan is to destroy New College (a liberal arts college), then *PAY* Hillsdale to come to Florida to rescue the college.

          Newly private NC/Hillsdale can then start their taxpayer funded Christian nationalist indoctrination program. And, as you are aware, destroying a school is not “diversity”. (Was that intended as mocking or just more indoctrination?) If you want another Hillsdale build it yourself—maybe in Hungary.

          • Phil Gordon

            January 8, 2023 at 7:51 am

            Cassandra,
            Hillsdale has no religious affiliations. It was the first American college to prohibit, in its charter, any discrimination based on race, sex, or religion. It was the 2nd college to grant 4 year liberal arts degrees to women. Hillsdale was a leader in the anti-slavery movement and founding of the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln. Hillsdale is one of only 2 colleges that refuse Federal money in order to remain independent of Federal requirements such as tracking students’ race, among many others. Hillsdale embodies and embraces true liberalism, not the racial and sexual identity marxism that “progressives” have installed at New College.

          • cassandra

            January 8, 2023 at 3:34 pm

            Phil Gordon Jan 8 7:51am
            “Hillsdale College is a small, Christian, classical liberal arts college…. God is indeed the first authority and the motive toward which all learning moves.”—-Hillsdale website

            Diversity: Their website shows very little racial diversity among students. Do minority students reject Hillsdale for some reason? Or does Hillsdale reject minorities? It’s not surprising that the school is not “tracking students’ race”

            It is, of course, commendable that Hillsdale has a stated anti-discrimination policy and has been at the forefront in many ways, however until late 20th century, society took care of most of the risk of minorities and women enrolling in Hillsdale (and most schools—see misogynist Alito’s club membership to keep women out of Princeton.) Even now Hillsdale’s female enrollment percentage is lower than the national average.

            I realize that many SWFCMs—often with replacement theory fears—are facing a world that their grandfathers were determined to prevent. I am aware that these men resent women and minorities taking what they see as *THEIR* jobs, education, and wives (who many SWCFMs think should be caged, raped, and beaten, brood mares. Yes, I read Right-wingers). Frightened Desantis is using state force and violence to put the world back together the way he and SWCFMs insist that it be.

        • Johnathan Galt

          January 8, 2023 at 3:08 pm

          Why is it being attacked? Because school choice is an existential threat to the totalitarian’s desire to control the narrative.

      • Dan

        January 7, 2023 at 9:03 pm

        Do you mean like the ones that are coming out of college now?

      • Old Goat

        January 8, 2023 at 6:50 am

        You mean an alternative to the current indoctrination that our nation is suffering under the brink of collapse.

      • Jim1937

        January 8, 2023 at 8:54 am

        You mean he is going to PREVENT indoctrination of students!

        • Ron trump

          January 8, 2023 at 3:20 pm

          “He is going to prevent”

          Let him put that orange on his skin first. Don’t want to let those small hands show lol

      • jack

        January 8, 2023 at 1:46 pm

        sorry betty. you have it backwards. the left is doing the indoctrination.

      • Johnathan Galt

        January 8, 2023 at 3:04 pm

        You are sad you will no longer be allowed to indoctrinate them. So sad, groomer.

        • Say again?

          January 8, 2023 at 3:08 pm

          “So sad groomer”

          Who you calling groomer there Matt geatz? Lol

        • cassandra

          January 8, 2023 at 3:55 pm

          Speaking of “groomers”, what do you know about grooming-obsessed Desantis’ year teaching at Darlington School. Former students reveal that it was quite a year to remember! Ron partying with students drinking alcohol, cruel jokes on students, teaching his personal religious opinions regardless of students’ own religious beliefs, inaccurate history lessons, racial bias. Inappropriate Ron. He left after only one year.

    • Sam Adams

      January 8, 2023 at 8:25 am

      Any college that indoctrinates its students into a single political ideology is not “good” in any meaningful sense. The on-going tragedy in American higher education is that the educational mission of America’s colleges and universities has been supplanted by a political mission focused on left-wing indoctrination and hostility to both rational intellectual debate and responsible dissent. Unfortunately, DeSantis is just looking to shift New College from left-wing to right-wing indoctrination. In other words, he is just shifting the bias along the political spectrum without re-focusing on the educational mission of the university. Still, with the overwhelming left-wing bias in academe, the opposition to his efforts should highlight for all the degree to which the radical left has captured complete control of the academy.

      • jack

        January 8, 2023 at 1:47 pm

        well said

      • So much

        January 8, 2023 at 3:09 pm

        “Overwhelming left wing bias”

        Go back to trade school and stop crying lol

    • Kris B Mauldin

      January 8, 2023 at 9:27 am

      Woketard faux academics doom western civilizations to barbarism. Your comment is a classic example of attacked the proponent of an idea rather than addrressing the substantance of the proposal.

    • KayFlyte

      January 8, 2023 at 1:00 pm

      Consider your ox gored, Vince. And high time it was.
      .

    • Johnathan Galt

      January 8, 2023 at 3:01 pm

      You are apparently sad that this college will no longer promote your angry totalitarian worldview. Here’s a hanky.

    • Amazing

      January 8, 2023 at 3:03 pm

      “Disc jockey in vietnam”

      Man he couldn’t stay out of Vietnam and all he did was annoy the others GIs with his bad playlist lol

      • cassandra

        January 8, 2023 at 4:40 pm

        Did you see the “Wheel of Fortune” episode where Melania was a contestant?

        Melania spun the wheel. The category was: “Trump Lost The”
        E _ E C T I O N
        Melania laughed, then quickly answered: “I’ll take the ‘R’ Pat”.

    • Vince Edwards

      January 8, 2023 at 3:13 pm

      Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro of Nashville commented on Hillsdale when Tennessee conservatives tried to bring this program to their state:

      “What’s dumb here is the way Hillsdale curriculum just ignores basic history to push a political agenda,” Yarbro said.

      “They’re trying to re-write the history of the civil rights movement, teaching that the desegregation of lunch counters violated the business owners’ constitutional rights.

      “Most parents want their kids to learn how to read, to do math, and to learn their country’s history — the good and the bad. What Hillsdale is pushing is indoctrination, and it’s dangerous.”

  • Florida Mom

    January 6, 2023 at 2:03 pm

    Well I guess we’re crossing this school off our list for my kid.

    • Betty

      January 7, 2023 at 11:57 am

      I would if I had college
      Age
      Children.

    • Texas Dad

      January 7, 2023 at 9:08 pm

      Sounds like one I would add to my list for my children. No commie schools for my kids. Used to live 15min from UC Berkley. That is a school I would never inflict on my children.

      • Old Goat

        January 8, 2023 at 6:52 am

        Amen. (For the Godless Marxists) that means I AGREE.

      • Sure

        January 8, 2023 at 3:11 pm

        Yeah right
        Like conservatives do higher education there trade school lol

    • Kris B Mauldin

      January 8, 2023 at 9:29 am

      If that is an example of your wokejoke mentality then it is already cxertain that you will insure your ‘kids” intellectual demise.

    • Johnathan Galt

      January 8, 2023 at 3:05 pm

      Why, because they will not offer a degree in Transgender Women’s Studies?

    • Johnathan Galt

      January 8, 2023 at 3:09 pm

      Just as well. They would find no safe spaces there, poor dears.

  • Libertarian Dad

    January 6, 2023 at 2:19 pm

    Sounds like with the decreased enrollment in recent years at New College they weren’t meeting the needs of incoming students. Maybe with a change in emphasis towards teaching the classics and critical thinking they can get back to higher levels of enrollment.

    • Vince Edwards

      January 6, 2023 at 2:58 pm

      From the college website:
      New College of Florida adopts this Statement on Free Expression to support and encourage full and open discourse and the robust exchange of ideas and perspectives on our campus. The principles of freedom of speech and freedom of expression in the United States and Florida Constitutions, in addition to being legal rights, are an integral part of the mission of New College. We deliver a liberal arts education of the highest quality in the context of a small, residential public honors college.

      • Sam Adams

        January 8, 2023 at 8:38 am

        True freedom of speech and freedom of expression are no longer part of the missions of American colleges and universities. Only speech and expression in service to the new radical woke orthodoxy are permitted. As a professor at a major state university for over 30 years, I have seen and experienced this new totalitarianism first-hand. At my school, say the wrong thing in class, and you’ll get a visit from the school’s “bias response team,” the Red Guards of America’s new Cultural Revolution.

      • Johnathan Galt

        January 8, 2023 at 3:09 pm

        Clearly they represent an existential threat to leftist dogma…

    • Mark Anderson

      January 6, 2023 at 10:11 pm

      Libertarians are Republican’s who smoke dope.

    • Charlotte Greenbarg

      January 7, 2023 at 8:35 am

      Exactly! The far left has damaged the institution

      • Mr. Haney

        January 7, 2023 at 7:25 pm

        Buy a clue instead of being a bigot.

        • Boo Radley

          January 7, 2023 at 9:59 pm

          The woke mind virus seems to have fully enveloped your brain. Always ad hominem attacks and no ability to discuss the topic at hand. Dead give away of those infected.

        • Johnathan Galt

          January 8, 2023 at 3:10 pm

          Being bigoted against totalitarianism is a sue sign of a superior mind.

    • Kris B Mauldin

      January 8, 2023 at 9:29 am

      Ya think?

    • Where is it

      January 8, 2023 at 3:12 pm

      “Libertarían”

      You should have put joke next to that lol

  • Elliott Offen

    January 6, 2023 at 3:34 pm

    They don’t want any undermining their christo fascist propaganda that this country never makes mistakes and is the best thing since sliced bread… which it’s not thanks to the right wing.

    • Kris B Mauldin

      January 8, 2023 at 9:32 am

      You condemn and undermine the foundation upon which you stand in order to make a statement of any kind. Take your slurs elsewhere, like to a bar where they belong.

      • Sure

        January 8, 2023 at 3:14 pm

        When you start sharing meals with sinners “Christian”
        Like that will ever happen
        Go back to supporting conversion therapy. Only thing you people do lol

  • Tjb

    January 6, 2023 at 3:58 pm

    Looks like the beginning of a re-education camp at New College. If China and Vietnam can do it, why can’t DeSantis do it?

    • Old Goat

      January 8, 2023 at 6:56 am

      More like a miniscule alternative to the current Marxist education camps in America today. More dedicated to censoring speech and indoctrinating in woke CRT politics than providing a real education based on academic excellence.

      • Ever

        January 8, 2023 at 3:16 pm

        Old goat can’t even name a school where he says this stuff is happening at.

        Probably because he never went to one lol

    • Sam Adams

      January 8, 2023 at 8:41 am

      You’re a little late to the party, my friend. New College already is a re-education camp in the Maoist tradition.

      • Kris B Mauldin

        January 8, 2023 at 9:43 am

        I love the way the manner in which you woketards project the very evil that you perpetrate towards your adversaries. You are very sick people like Marx your God.

      • Kris B Mauldin

        January 8, 2023 at 9:44 am

        Mao: The most prolific mass murderer in history and a fav of the Woketards.

    • Kris B Mauldin

      January 8, 2023 at 9:34 am

      I love the way the manner in which you woketards project the very evil that you perpetrate towards your adversaries. You are very sick people like Marx your God.

    • Johnathan Galt

      January 8, 2023 at 3:11 pm

      A more apt analogy would be “reprogramming from the leftist cult.”

      You’re welcome.

  • Frankie M.

    January 6, 2023 at 7:01 pm

    Looks like they’re not satisfied with privatizing public schools. Now they’ve set their aims on higher ed. Does the governor understand there are private colleges & universities already out there?

    • Kris B Mauldin

      January 8, 2023 at 9:46 am

      Uh, Frankie, the PEOPLE own the public universities not you and your woketard pals exclusively.

      • 2 Chronicles, 7:14 KJV

        January 8, 2023 at 1:22 pm

        Amen 🙏🇺🇲

      • Johnathan Galt

        January 8, 2023 at 3:12 pm

        Leftists feel differently. Free speech is an existential threat to the Democrat agenda.

      • cassandra

        January 9, 2023 at 8:17 am

        100%
        Finally something correct slipped out of your mouth. (Too bad for you; there’s no edit option.) The people *DO* own New College. Why would the people want to give it away to a private religious school (actually Ron’s plan is to *PAY* Hillsdale to *rescue* the school after Ron destroys it)?

        It appears that quite a few of the commenters here are outside agitators, so there’s little point in my providing any further factual information. Many —like you Kris— just sound like brainless cheerleaders from hell. If you are Hillsdale graduates, you should speak up on other Florida Politics articles—-just be sure to mention that you attend/attended Hillsdale! People need to see firsthand the bigotry, lack of critical thinking skills, refusal (inability) to provide sources for the ignorant comments you make.

        I will allow you the last word, as I have no interest in being flushed into the sewer from where you came.

  • Mark Anderson

    January 6, 2023 at 10:13 pm

    The girly voiced shortstop keeps swinging away.

    • Kris B Mauldin

      January 8, 2023 at 9:49 am

      … and connecting with Woketard chin everytime.

  • Eugene Lowe

    January 7, 2023 at 12:20 am

    Feel like burning my f…ing diploma!

    • Kris B Mauldin

      January 8, 2023 at 9:51 am

      You might as well, it obviously isn’t worth anything anyway.

  • Charlotte Greenbarg

    January 7, 2023 at 8:33 am

    New College has declining enrollment and high tuition. Poster child for needed reform

  • California Man

    January 7, 2023 at 4:32 pm

    New College has an interesting history and mission, both of which make them eminently suited to reinvention. At its outset, it was a magnet for highly intelligent, independent thinkers. Its first year classes, beginning in 1964, pursued a quite rigorous core curriculum of classical humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. As time passed, the rigor and the core began to wither, and the quality of the students started to decline. I visited the campus a few times in the last 10 years, and after talking to the students, I came away thinking that they were not being given an institutional structure that would encourage independent thought. The woke-ism was ever more oppressive each time I visited.

    DeSantis’s proposals won’t alter the student body, or the faculty, both of which are roughly 98% Democrat or left of Democrat. So it’s hard to see how his proposals are going to alter the ideological nature of the place. The best DeSantis can hope to do is to restore rigor and aim toward the type of lofty intellectual goals held by schools such as St. John’s College or the University of Chicago. The people of Florida would be well-served if DeSantis can restore a core program and return New College to what it once was –a hub of great teaching. My hope is that great teaching will bring great students back to New College. The commenters who predict that reform will bring indoctrination cannot possibly have a clue about the nature of contemporary education.

  • Shrugged

    January 7, 2023 at 8:34 pm

    Excellent project! Return education to these faux higher institutions of “no performance”. I work in one.

  • Charles B. Van Duzer

    January 7, 2023 at 9:48 pm

    The immediate problem will be the teaching staff. Expect some unpleasantness towards the Board from ideological tenured profs.

    • Kris B Mauldin

      January 8, 2023 at 9:55 am

      Buy out their contracts and send them packing.

  • Alex Tedeschi

    January 8, 2023 at 2:47 am

    The White Nationalist movement hates New College, because students there converted a young white nationalist, Derek Black, the son of the Stormfront leader, away from white supremacy. That’s why Ron Santos is taking over the school.

    • Kris B Mauldin

      January 8, 2023 at 9:56 am

      Buy out their contracts and send them packing.

    • Kris B Mauldin

      January 8, 2023 at 9:57 am

      Yeah, right, that’s the reason.

  • Iown Ewe

    January 8, 2023 at 6:20 am

    Leftists take over every single institution of higher learning. Then they [email protected] and sh!t in them until they are uninhabitable by normal people, and finally, they can’t believe normal people want to recapture one of those institutions and return it to normal. Nope. Not good enough for leftists. They want every single institution ruined, and they want to keep them that way.

    • Free to Think

      January 8, 2023 at 9:36 am

      Nailed it!

  • Free to Think

    January 8, 2023 at 9:33 am

    If parents and students prefer a Woke “education,” there are almost endless choices. What is so horrible about having a few more non-Woke institutions for those who want a classical education, free from “progressive” propaganda?

  • AD D

    January 9, 2023 at 8:01 am

    Good! Hoping the best for this college. The crap they teach these days is why there is low student enrollment in many colleges. As a minority, I never had hatred toward white people, and I never hated this country. But the marxist professors at the college I went to pushed this “hatred” every single day. AND, they spewed racism all day long. Pretty disgusting.

Comments are closed.


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