Trustee Quits College Board After DeSantis 'Takeover' Blocks Tenure
A faculty trustee at a college that has become the front line in a battle over the direction of higher education in Florida quit in a huff Wednesday after the college’s board of trustees denied tenure to five professors.
New College of Florida was targeted for an overhaul in January by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who appointed six trustees to change the college’s direction, according to Fox News.
“The New College of Florida is a public institution with a statutorily stated mission of ‘provid[ing] a quality education.’ Unfortunately, like so many colleges and universities in America, this institution has been completely captured by a political ideology that puts trendy, truth-relative concepts above learning,” a statement from the governor’s office said at the time.
The new trustees booted the existing president and shuttered its diversity office, leading graduate X González to lash out at the changes, according to The Guardian.
“New College is such a transparently trans and queer school, and that’s one of the reasons why DeSantis decided to stage this hostile takeover,” he said.
With changes being made, the board rejected five requests for tenure, according to KABC-TV.
Interim President Richard Corcoran, an appointee of the new board of trustees, had urged those seeking tenure to drop their bids, citing the vast changes the college is experiencing.
Corcoran said that the college needs to change.
“We have to confront the brutal facts and the fact is what was there was not working,” Corcoran said, according to WTVT. “It doesn’t mean we don’t have great faculty, students, but the corpus of what was New College was in decline. There’s no arguing that fact, and we have to fix that.”
The vote came amid a raucous meeting during which at least one student was removed for using foul language.
Trustee Mark Bauerlein, who opposed giving the professors tenure, said they had only taught for five years and could be given tenure next year, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Advocates of granting tenure said the professors might leave if not granted that status.
“This unprecedented action (is) a further indication that this board is hostile to the current faculty and is intent on the destruction of the very academic program they are charged with supporting,” faculty union president Steven Shipman wrote in a statement.
As the meeting ended, trustee Matthew Lepinski, the board’s faculty representative, dropped a bombshell.
BREAKING: @NewCollegeofFL Trustee Dr. Matthew Lepinski quits on the spot at the end of intense board meeting pic.twitter.com/1BNqufsNk4
— Florida’s Voice (@FLVoiceNews) April 26, 2023
“I’m very concerned with the direction this board is going and the destabilization of the academic program,” Lepinski said in a clip from the meeting posted to Twitter.
“And so I wish you the best of luck. This is my last board meeting. I’m leaving the college,” he said, before picking up such papers as were in front of him and leaving the meeting to cheers.
Christopher Rufo, a trustee appointed by DeSantis, noted a comment from another professor who left the college in a post he wrote on City Journal.
Rufo wrote that Aaron Hillegass “compared DeSantis with the perpetrators of the Holocaust.” He noted that the professor issued a statement saying, “I love New College, but for the good of our nation, I hope the school fails miserably and conspicuously. If I were more patriotic, I would burn the college’s buildings to the ground.”
I wish Dr. Lepinski well and look forward to recruiting his replacement. We are restoring classical liberal arts education at New College and any faculty that prefer the old system of unfettered left-wing activism and a rubber-stamp board are free to self-select out. https://t.co/M4hLqRfePq
— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) April 26, 2023
“I would encourage Hillegass to get on with it. At New College, we are building a classical liberal arts institution, in which there is no place for those who cannot differentiate between classical liberalism and political fascism. The faculty of New College need to be stewards of a great tradition, not arsonists of an eternal present,” Rufo wrote.
“Hillegass’s rhetoric might be over the top, but it reveals something fundamental about the nature of contemporary politics. The American Left, which has achieved hegemony in academia, would rather destroy a university than cede control of it to the Right. They do not believe conservatives are wrong; they believe conservatives are evil, and that this evil should be violently opposed,” Rufo continued.
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