Gov. Ron DeSantis: Don’t turn Florida universities into a “Berkeley”

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Don’t turn Florida universities into a “Berkeley,” Gov. Ron DeSantis warned state university leaders Thursday.

Making his first appearance before the panel that oversees the 12 state universities – the Florida Board of Governors –  DeSantis said he is pleased by the growing academic reputation of the Florida system.

But the Republican governor also said he doesn’t want any of the Florida schools to become a hive of activism that has characterized universities in other states, such as the University of California at Berkeley. UC Berkeley students have had a long history in political activism, dating back to the Free Speech Movement and anti-Vietnam War activities during the 1960s.

“I would just caution you, you see some of these other universities around the country, some things that happen, like the culture in places like a Berkeley. I think that’s a bad way to go here. I think that we want to make sure we’re focused on achievement and academics,” DeSantis told the university board, which was meeting at Florida A&M University.

“I don’t care about activism. People can do that. But that should not be the university’s mission. The university’s mission should really be academic-focused and really promoting high achievement in an environment where people are exposed to competing views and are not just fed an orthodoxy,” said DeSantis, an Ivy League grad who holds a Harvard law degree.

“I think most people here agree with that. And I don’t think our universities have had some of the problems that you see. But I would just caution, the more you do that, go in that direction, I think the less we will be preparing students to succeed in society. Just keep doing what you’re doing,” he said.

He asked university leaders to continue to focus on performance standards –  such as measuring graduation rates –  and other “accountability” measures.

But Florida leaders still may want to emulate UC Berkeley in other ways. The California school has a stronger academic reputation than any of the 12 Florida universities.

Florida officials were delighted last fall that the state system placed five schools in the top 100 list of public universities put out by U.S. News & World Report. The University of Florida was at No. 8 on the annual list.

But comfortably ahead of UF and the other Florida schools was UC Berkeley – ranked the No. 2 public university in the nation, just behind another California school, the University of California at Los Angeles.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I am a product of the Florida university system. I graduated from New College and then completed graduate school at USF. I also teach now at GSU.

    Governor Desantis clearly does not understand public university education. These schools serve their communities and help rise people up who may not have had the privilege of generations of college education. Part of that learning process is growing the mind to see the world in a deeper way, one that rests upon the collective wisdom of thinkers throughout history and across the globe. The Governor wants to short circuit the process. Learn but don’t speak or act. That doesn’t work for the millennials in college now. They have grown up in a stressful and disturbing world and are not willing to wait. Look at how the Parkland students reacted. Learn but don’t speak or act. That serves to maintain the status quo of older generations and doesn’t afford the same rights to this new highly diverse generation of college students. Learn but don’t speak or act. One wonders what the Governor is afraid these students would say or do. That’s no basis for a mission for any school.

  2. Yea, Ron, we should maintain Florida as a bastion of religious fundamentalism, racism and climate change denial. That way people like you can keep getting elected.

    Also, saying “I don’t care about activism” in a country where every right we have was won through activism is pretty rich — and an example of the depoliticized, ahistórico, pro-status quo “orthodoxy” all of us are subjected to through school, the media, etc all our lives. Betcha Ronnie is less concerned about that.

  3. On the contrary, Florida universities would be fortunate to even begin to approach Berkeley’s leadership in academics and political discourse.

  4. “I don’t care about activism. People can do that. BUT THAT SHOULD NOT BE THE UNIVERSITYS MISSION. The university’s mission should really be academic-focused and really promoting high achievement in an environment where people are exposed to competing views and are not just fed an orthodoxy,” said DeSantis, an Ivy League grad who holds a Harvard law degree. (Let’s don’t mince his words. )

  5. “I don’t care about activism. People can do that. BUT THAT SHOULD NOT BE THE UNIVERSITY’S MISSION. The university’s mission should really be academic-focused and really promoting high achievement in an environment where people are exposed to competing views and are not just fed an orthodoxy,” said DeSantis, an Ivy League grad who holds a Harvard law degree. Let’s not mince his words.

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