Politics | Education

Saving America’s Universities From Incremental Politicization

Why intellectual censorship is a burgeoning threat to democracy.

Sean Kernan
5 min readNov 6, 2023

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Professor teaching a group in class.
Pexels images via Fauxels

I recently attended a department party for the University of South Florida. We hung out at a professor’s beautiful home, which was filled with colorful objects from global travels and trinkets from archaeological digs. My partner is an assistant professor, so I’m often the plus one and get a front row seat to university drama, and feel a bit uneducated in the process.

The home owner was celebrating being cancer free for 20 years, and publishing 220 articles since his diagnosis, hence the party’s name, The 20/220 Party. While there, I met a professor from the infamous New College, which is only an hour away. The school is a flashpoint in Governor DeSantis’s war against higher education or, as he calls it, “The War Against Woke”. The governor replaced its entire school board with hardline conservative supporters. One third of New College’s professors left within a year of the new draconian policies, leaving the school scrambling to find replacements.

The professor I spoke with had filled one of those many vacancies, and admitted to feeling like a bit of a sellout. He went on about the strange things happening on campus, with $50 million pouring in from the government to help signal the project was a success, and the establishment of a dozen new sports teams and new rules for teaching. The campus is now filled with a strange contrast of athletes, and dyed-hair free-spirited students who constitute the old guard.

DeSantis is on a mission to convert the historically liberal arts college into, culturally-speaking, a bible college. Among other changes, his new legislation also requires state colleges to poll professors on their political affiliations. They’ve also banned DEI statements. It is only one example of a growing and concerning war against higher education which could hurt democracy — in a way that not enough people appreciate.

The danger of incrementalism on democracy

There is a line of conservative thinking that universities are actively brainwashing kids into becoming liberals. This is heightened…

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Sean Kernan

Writer and writing instructor. Always on the hunt for a good story. That guy from Quora. Writing out of Tampa, Florida.