The other day I was working on a presentation I was about to deliver to the Free Speech Forum.
At one point, my eyes strayed from my computer screen. And I found myself staring absently at my right hand.
At the gold ring that I have worn for much of my adult life.
I thought about that for a while. And then I slipped that gold ring off my finger and tucked it into a drawer.
And closed the drawer.
On my Class of ‘75 University of Florida gold ring.
And honestly, I don’t know when, or even if, I’ll ever slip it back on my finger.
(Funny story, when I got out of the Navy I almost decided to go to the University of Colorado because I wanted to live in the mountains. And then I heard about the Florida Alligator being thrown off campus for publishing abortion referral information. And suddenly I was headed to GNV and the rest of my life.)
Because the truth is that I am appalled by what’s been happening to my university.
This forced conscription. This subsumption. This hostile takeover of a great public institution.
For the benefit of an unscrupulous politician who is pleased to exploit UF’s prestige and squander its reputation for the sake of his own presidential ambitions.
All of this with the willing collaboration of a university board of trustees and administration that has elevated partisan politics above the good of The Academy they had promised to serve.
Listen, I have known and written about every UF president since J. Wayne Reitz.
And I have known and written about every Florida governor since Claude Kirk.
And I will tell you that what is being done to the University of Florida – dare I say The University of DeSantis? – is not politics as usual.
It is a tragedy of The Academe.
A tragedy of the university commons.
Although I was there to talk about something else, I made the above comments at the Florida Free Speech Forum on Monday.
Perhaps because free speech is pretty much all we progressives have left to us in Rob DeSantis’ self-proclaimed “freest state in America.”
At least for now.
When he was singled out as the only suitable UF presidential candidate in all the whole wide world, Nebraska (Motto: We’re even redder than Florida) Sen. Ben Sasse said UF “is the most interesting university in the country.”
And he should know because he once led a small religious college with fewer students than UF packs into some of its auditorium classes.
Still, I wonder if even Sasse appreciated the irony of that statement.
The only thing that makes UF “interesting” – that separates it from most of its peer institutions in America – is the degree to which it has so readily adapted to Gov. DeSantis’ academic world view: Suppress the faculty. Don’t say anything to students that might make them “uncomfortable.” Put the governor’s loonie cronies on the payroll. And welcome whatever new president is deemed to best serve Gov. Ron’s ambitions.
Hell, I may never wear that gold ring again.