Florida is leading the way in wrecking the American university system.
In his efforts to remake higher education in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed laws that alter the tenure system, remove Florida universities from commonly accepted accreditation practices, and mandate annual “viewpoint diversity surveys” from students and faculty.
DeSantis (R) also pushed through legislation he dubbed the “Stop WOKE Act” that regulates what schools, including universities, and workplaces can teach about race and identity. The legislation — which went into effect Friday — already faces a legal challenge.
Just wait until professors all across the country scramble to organize and leap into action! Just wait! Really. Keep waiting!
We have historical precedent on how universities will deal with the situation. Just look to Germany in the 1930s. How did the professoriate handle Hitler’s transition to power?
If you look at how that transition worked within specific institutions—universities, most notably—you see that in many cases that it took no coordination or controlling attention for it to happen. Sometimes it was that an ambitious existing faculty member within the institution who had already achieved some measure of respect or notability saw an opportunity to move into a leadership position, leveraging some kind of re-alignment towards Nazism. The classic example might be Martin Heidegger, who already had a strongly established international reputation and had taught an extraordinary series of students at Marburg and then at Freiburg, where he had been appointed as Husserl’s successor. In April 1933, Heidegger was appointed Rector at Freiburg; two weeks later he joined the Nazi Party. There’s still an ongoing argument about whether Heidegger’s philosophical thought led him to Nazism as a doctrine well before he became Rector or whether his personal ambition led him to calculatedly join the Party and then to calculatedly back its doctrinal preferences (at which point the debate ends, because he was and acted as a Nazi for a time).
In any event, it happened similarly elsewhere. In institutions and associations, someone stepped forward to make the outward look of the institution favorable to Nazi interests. That in turn required gradual and then sharply forceful remaking of the inward life of the institution for that someone to hold their place and stay on the safe side of power. In short order, faculty were forced to retire, to quietly recede and become as close to invisible as possible, or to at least outwardly pretend support for the new values and culture of the institution. Or to flee Germany altogether—and failing any of those, to eventually face persecution and death at the hands of the Nazi state. In other places, like Poland, the Nazis didn’t waste any time destroying an existing intelligentsia.
The example I usually use is Hans Spemann, probably the most famous embryologist of the era. He won the Nobel Prize in 1935 for an experiment his student, Hilde Mangold, did*, and rapidly rose up to a position of great influence in German academics. Don’t get me wrong, he had a long history of good developmental work, so it wasn’t entirely undeserved, but he also benefited from being not-Jewish. When the National Socialists came to power, he didn’t exactly rush to defend Jewish scientists — he instead sent lists of Jewish faculty to the party, and blocked their promotion. He was a ready collaborator! He gave the Nazi salute at his Nobel ceremony!
So watch this space! What will happen is that Florida will use those diversity surveys to promote Republicans into administrative positions, and they’ll use that power to obstruct and fire academics who don’t buy into the conservative worldview, and universities will meekly acquiesce. Professors aren’t rewarded for bucking the system. They’re rewarded for enabling whatever the administrators want.
*By the way, Spemann signed his name as an author on Mangold’s thesis, despite her opposition. That’s the thesis that won the Nobel. In our emerging new academic regime, expect the assholes to rise to the top, as always.