I hope you aren’t expecting the universities to fight back

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!

Curiously, his association with the Nazi party is not mentioned in his wikipedia entry or his embryo project entry. There was no price to pay for leading German universities into a disgraceful hell.

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.


  1. raven says

    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.

    Is this what the right wingnuts mean by freedom? And freedom of speech?

    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.

    That is called a purge.

    Fundie xians do purges often. A decade or so ago, all the fundie colleges searched through their biology departments for scientists who accepted evolution, and then fired them.
    Their governing philosophy is Stalinism, and their governing role model is Joseph Stalin.

  2. Reginald Selkirk says

    … and mandate annual “viewpoint diversity surveys” from students and faculty.

    I wonder which “viewpoints” will be surveyed, and what the data will be used for. Are there not enough Flat Earth adherents in our universities? Should geology departments be required to teach it?

  3. raven says

    DeSantis proposes a new civilian military force in Florida that …https://www.cnn.com › florida-state-guard-desantis

    Dec 3, 2021 — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to reestablish a World War II-era civilian military force that he, not the Pentagon, would control.

    DeSantis also wants his own state military that he controls. (Why does Florida need their own army? Are they going to war with Georgia or Alabama?)

    Florida may well also set up their own Zygote Police to arrest women for abortions.

    Political correctness, purges, militias, secret police, and what is lacking here? Set up a Gulag system and you have a Fascist state called Florida.

  4. René says

    PZ, I have hinted at it before, but there is no need to raise* an asterisk, that is just silly. I any professional font an asterisk is by its nature is raised above x-height.
    * For good measure.

  5. microraptor says

    Apparently the Florida public school system has a shortage of more than 9000 teachers for the coming school year due largely to the new regs. How do you suppose they’re going to handle that?

  6. says

    I worked my way through The Rise And Fall of the Third Reich a little over 20 years ago, and I’ve been hearing echoes ever since.
    They’re getting louder.
    January 6, 2021 was the Beer Hall Putsch.

  7. says

    Regarding Heidegger, as Vonnegut wrote in Mother Night (quite possibly thinking of him, among others) “You are what you pretend to be.”

  8. whywhywhy says

    The teacher shortage is not a bug but a feature. They want to destroy the public school system.

  9. microraptor says

    @11: That’s why I asked how they’re going to handle it rather than how they’re going to fix it.

  10. Akira MacKenzie says

    Pulled up this recent quote from DeSantis that I’ve also heard bouncing around some of the Leftist and atheist podcasts I peruse:

    “What we’ve seen in different parts of the country is to try to distort history as a way to pursue an agenda here in the present day. We have said that that is not appropriate in the State of Florida, and so you’re learning the real history.”[Emphasis mine]

    Just what is “the real history?” Probably the bowdlerized, “patriotic,” uncritical pabulum that a lot of us were fed in school: America has done and can do no wrong. The Founders were great sages who wanted to create an exclusively Christian capitalist nation. George Washington really could “never tell a lie.” The Civil War was really about “states right.” (The right to do what? You know. Stuff.) We had a god-ordained manifest destiny to expand westward. We single handedly beat the Germans in both World Wars. Korea and Vietnam were necessary to beat back those dirty commies. Ronald Reagan was the greatest president of all time. Every war we fought was justified. Every dollar made by some old white guy was deserved. America. America is perfect.

    Meanwhile, what about the Trail or Tears? Jim Crowe? The Gilded Age? US backing fascist dictatorships to protect foreign investments and our sphere of influence? Never happened! All lies concocted by Marxists and their malcontent allies who are out to attack and defame The Greatest Country In The World (TM) for their nefarious, diabolical, schemes. They are the ones trying to indoctrinate people, not us.

    DeSantis’ “truth” is entirely non-ideological and unbiased because it just is.

  11. Dennis K says

    @7 feralboy12 — I’m working my way through that tome right now. The parallels are obvious and the direction is clear — except the one where an alliance of nations comes together to stop the American Nazi party. Perhaps its inherent stupidity and internal strife can render is mostly ineffective on the world stage? One can dream …

  12. Akira MacKenzie says

    ADDENDUM to 13:

    DeSantis’ comments are the academic equivalent of Kellyanne Conway’s “alternate facts” quip. The academics/news media are lying to you. All of their so-called “evidence” is manufactured. We have the facts. Our side has the truth. Listen to us. Trust us.

  13. hemidactylus says

    I hate to invoke Critical Theory as it is so obviously much “woke” malarkey (to those who can’t distinguish disparate strands of CT from CRT or the latter from garden variety antiracism- sarcasm tag). But when this authoritarian (fascist?) phase of US history ends with the downfall of Chancellor DeSantis, the next generation may produce a retrospective reckoning and a future Critical Theorist in the manner of Habermas will come along to ask: WTF Heidegger?!?!!!?

    But they will be coming from an obviously woke place and the cycle will repeat itself.

    Speaking of political cycles one doesn’t need to be Nostradamus to say November is gonna suck really bad.

    And to the feigned leftish antiwoke warriors out there…you can’t wash your hands of this. You whined and parroted as much as the rightwing opportunists in this neo-McCarthyist coming purge. You cannot simply wash your hands and pretend you played no role with your viewpoint diversity banners.

  14. kome says

    Time to encourage all my friends in Florida academic settings to start lying about their beliefs.

  15. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 18

    Oh, I’m sure DeSantis will make sure there are snitches and spies around to keep tabs on those damn crypto-commie professors trying to hide their beliefs.

  16. ralfmuschall says

    Is there a source for Spemann’s Nazi activities that would be accepted by Wikipedia’s admins? The german talk page there (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diskussion:Hans_Spemann) says that there has been a section about his “nationalism” (which sounds much less harmful than the Heideggerish crimes mentioned in the post here) between 2014 and 2017. The page about the terrorist Schlageter mentions Spemann honoring Schlageter at a Nazi festivity (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Leo_Schlageter#%C3%96ffentliche_Reaktionen_und_erstes_politisches_Echo).

    I’d need a reputable source, otherwise a section added would be deleted almost immediately.

  17. kome says


    I wouldn’t doubt it. Fascists just be like that. Real fucking shame that academics don’t do much to speak out against fascism though. As long as my colleagues have their little fiefdoms on campus that they pretend gives them any meaningful power, they’re a pretty happy bunch who only get their jimmies rustled when someone decides to ask something like “hey, how come y’all never hire black people,” or “isn’t it weird that we just let this guy get away with sexually harassing students for years and don’t do anything to stop him?”

  18. whheydt says

    I’m curious about the “…workplace…” inclusion. Is deSantis planning to go after companies (both publicly held corporations and privately held ones)?

  19. vereverum says

    @ #3 raven
    ” (Why does Florida need their own army? Are they going to war with Georgia or Alabama?)”

    Why not? Oklahoma and Texas did in 1931 over who controlled the bridges over the Red River.
    Oklahoma won, Texas has never forgotten.

  20. leerudolph says

    Reginald Selkirk @2: “Are there not enough Flat Earth adherents in our universities? Should geology departments be required to teach it?”

    How does an evangelical reconcile Flat Earth adherence with the Noachian Flood? In particular, are the various bogus reconciliations of the NF with actual geological structures compatible with Flat Earthism?

  21. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 23

    Insert meme of Ken Watanabe in one of the recent American Godzilla movies saying “Let them fight.”

  22. unclefrogy says

    of course “the truth ” can have no dissent. everyone has to agree that is freedom, liberty and justice for all.
    I have always had the feeling that before we had any kind of world wide peace all countries would have to be seen by others and themselves as equal. Most of the time I just speculated on what things could be like after that transition would have taken place like in the enlightened earth suggested at Star Trek.
    I never thought much about what the transition would have been like. If the conservatives as they are in today’s world succeed in their desire to repress all who do not agree with their beliefs in the name of freedom the US will subsequently and automatically cease to be “The Leader Of The Free World”.
    What is the US’s preeminence in the world based on? In 1945 it was rested on a vast continental empire full of plenty of natural resources and a manufacturing base that was second to none and completely undamaged by war. We had the beginnings of equality of citizens and a somewhat functioning democratic process. We had some the best research and development institutions on earth not all of them were confined to universities either. Some of that has changed and some of that is changing. Nothing that the reactionaries are proposing will prevent the further slide from the central position. The momentum of the empire will carry the US for some time but it is not enough. maybe it is a good thing in the long run it is just too bad i am here now during the period of the fall and not afterwords.
    “The times They are a changing”

  23. silvrhalide says

    @11 & 12 Florida is usually duking it out for a spot in the bottom ten states for education anyway. Not a whole lot left to destroy, in terms of FL public schools.

    @15 If only it actually was a quip. She was dead serious. I still can’t believe that reporters managed to keep a straight face for follow up questions.

    @17 Time to encourage your academic friends to flee for academic jobs in other states. You definitely do not want to be the last one out. The Better Half’s sib taught for awhile in one of those for-profit online schools, was between jobs, needed income… when the house of cards finally collapsed, sib had a hell of a time finding another job with that lead balloon on the CV. Especially once the actual accreditation goes… good luck finding an academic job (already hard enough!) with “I spent the last 20 years teaching at a college/university that lost its accreditation…” even the onlines won’t take your call or application.

    @21 and yeah, so much that.

  24. Pierce R. Butler says

    Akira MacKenzie @ # 13: Just what is “the real history?”

    The Fla Dept of Ed provides some clues, in the form of “bootcamps” for teachers (not [yet] mandatory, but with a $weetener for attendance that few teachers can afford to let pass):

    … it is a “misconception” that “the Founders desired strict separation of church and state.” … George Washington and Thomas Jefferson repudiated slavery; unsaid is that both men held enslaved people … “One of the insulting assumptions was that we’re all these woke indoctrinators, and so they were presenting a remedy for that,” [Broward County teacher Richard] Judd said.

    The Miami Herald reported, per Hemant Mehta:

    … the workshops were “developed with the help of Hillsdale College,” a conservative Christian school in Michigan known for spreading historical David Barton-esque misinformation. Also helping? The “Bill of Rights Institute” founded by one of the right-wing Koch brothers. …

    The same workshops also downplayed slavery, overhyped the impact that Judeo-Christian beliefs had on the nation’s founding documents, and implied that the conservative judicial philosophy that the Founders’ desires are all that matter is baked into our legal system rather than being a deliberate choice Republicans made.

  25. wzrd1 says

    I fail to see the problem. Ditch accreditation practices, lose accreditation and that destroys the acceptance of any degree or certification issued by the school.
    Hence, any attending would be granted a degree unrecognized throughout the land. Maye that degree might be accepted in Somalia or Afghanistan.
    Frankly, it sounds like a self-limiting problem, as such cannot by nature spread, as with a worthless degree, the graduates would be unable to find a well paying position anywhere in the land.

  26. Pierce R. Butler says

    At least one UF prof will fight back:

    The mechanism for deciding that an instructor is violating House Bill 7 is completely subjective. The new law creates a mishmash of state-imposed speech codes that will harm academic achievement in Florida. … This is being done in the name of scoring political points with those who do not want the citizenry to discuss controversial subjects such as inequality, the history of segregation or the many ways that Tallahassee has tried to stifle the First Amendment from the beginning of our state’s history to present.

    I am not going to allow House Bill 7 to stop me from offering my students the most challenging scholarship on the Holocaust, eugenics, racism and related fields. The Stop WOKE Act will have zero impact on my research, public speaking or on my class lesson plans.