If his next political stop is the White House, Ron DeSantis is ready to be a change agent for colleges just as he has been in Florida.
During remarks in South Carolina, the Florida Governor and 2024 Republican candidate said “reforming universities” would be key to his presidency.
“We’re going to be reforming universities though. Don’t worry about that. That needs to be done,” DeSantis told an audience in Greer, at the 4th Congressional District Republican Club Presidential Series.
DeSantis has brought massive changes to what colleges and universities can and can’t do in Florida, and he has also discussed what might happen nationally if he’s sworn in as President in 2025.
In Iowa back in August, DeSantis said he had a plan to target “ineffective programs” at universities, contending students were “sold a bill of goods” by universities that steered them into programs without economic utility for the sake of generating student loan revenue.
“We’re going to make the universities responsible for backing the student loans and guess what will happen? They’re not going to want to do zombie studies if the student isn’t going to be able to be gainfully employed and then they’re going to get stuck with the loan,” DeSantis said.
“So you’re going to see big changes as a result of that. We need to stop subsidizing ineffective programs at these universities and we need to get this right,” he added. “And I think that that’s going to make a big, big difference.”
DeSantis said embracing “alternative accreditors” would allow for social justice initiatives such as diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs embraced by universities to be scuttled.
“It’s going to be, instead of you have to have gender studies or you have to have DEI to get accredited, it will be the opposite. We’re not going to accredit you if you have DEI and some of these other things,” the graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School told Hewitt.
DeSantis complained that the accreditors strive to enforce a liberal orthodoxy.
“Part of the reason universities operate the way they are is because they need to get accredited and these accreditors are all trying to create the types of universities that we object to as conservatives,” DeSantis explained.
DeSantis has suggested that DEI initiatives should be targeted by the federal Department of Justice Civil Rights Division as well.
Furthermore, DeSantis declared war on DEI this year in rolling out legislative proposals “pushing back against the tactics of liberal elites who suppress free thought in the name of identity politics and indoctrination.” These proposals targeting universities and colleges spending money “for discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination” became law after the 2023 Legislative Session.
“If you look at the way this has actually been implemented across the country, DEI is better viewed as standing for discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination,” DeSantis said when signing SB 266 at New College of Florida. “And that has no place in our public institutions.”
Speaking of New College, DeSantis said he would turn the “left of the left” school into a “little Hillsdale” College, and has made second term moves to permanently alter the mission of the Sarasota school.
“It was supposed to be Florida’s top honors college in the entire state under Florida Statute. That’s what it says. But what happened is it became an ideological epicenter. It was all about things like gender ideology, (critical race theory) and all that,” DeSantis added. “And we don’t think that that has a lot of value from the perspective of our taxpayers.”
The Governor framed his drastic revision to the college’s board of trustees, which installed former Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran as President and gave him a $699,000 salary, as a way to “make sure it aligns with the state’s values.”
DeSantis’ moves have gotten the attention of the Joe Biden administration.
During a September interview on “The Ingraham Angle,” DeSantis took issue with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights opening “a civil rights investigation against the state of Florida, one of our colleges: New College of Sarasota.”
“And they did things like abolish the gender studies department and they’re now opening up a civil rights investigation against one of our trustees, Chris Rufo, because he misgendered one of the fired employees or fired professors,” DeSantis added. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
As reported by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the letter to New College President Corcoran said the Department of Education is seeking to probe whether the school “excluded qualified persons with disabilities from participation in, denied them the benefits of, or otherwise subjected them to discrimination in its programs, activities, aids, benefits, or services.”
DeSantis has been glib about the school “cycling through teachers” since Corcoran took over, calling it “addition by subtraction.”
“The media will be like, ‘Oh there’s a brain drain from New College as faculty leave.’ And I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, if a professor of Intersectional Marxism is leaving Florida, that is not a bad thing for the state of Florida,’” DeSantis quipped in Iowa back in October.