Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, tapped six new trustees for the New College of Florida on Friday, including Christopher Rufo, a political activist who has fueled the recent conservative backlash against critical race theory by conflating the once-obscure academic theory with diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, which have then come under fire in statehouses across the U.S.
“We are now over the walls and ready to transform higher education from within. Under the leadership of Gov. DeSantis, our all-star board will demonstrate that the public universities, which have been corrupted by woke nihilism, can be recaptured, restructured, and reformed,” Rufo tweeted Friday.
Rufo, according to his website, does not live in Florida but in the Pacific Northwest.
The six new trustees include another familiar name from the culture wars: Matthew Spalding, a Hillsdale College professor and administrator, who is perhaps best known for his contributions to the widely panned “1776 Report” commissioned by the Trump administration in response to The New York Times’ “1619 Project.”
“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 told The Daily Caller.
Friday’s appointments are the latest efforts by DeSantis to reshape Florida public higher education in a conservative fashion. Last month DeSantis asked public colleges in the state to compile a report detailing the costs associated with diversity, equity and inclusion programs.
Florida’s DEI data collection has prompted pushback, including from the free speech advocacy group PEN America, which called the move more of a “witch hunt” than “a serious effort to examine public expenditures” and questioned the governor’s motives in seeking the DEI data.