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Chairman Rufo’s gender politics


Someone in comments below pointed out that Ron DeSantis was an affirmative action baseball recruit at Yale. Funny you should mention that, because as Michelle Goldberg observes Christopher Rufo is turning the New College into a massive affirmative action program for male jocks, with a commensurate watering down of academic standards:

Rufo speaks a lot about academic excellence and the virtues of a classical liberal education. But as Steven Walker of The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported in a damning July story, the incoming class recruited by the new administration has lower average grades, SAT scores and ACT scores than last year’s class. “Much of the drop in average scores can be attributed to incoming student-athletes who, despite scoring worse on average, have earned a disproportionate number of the school’s $10,000-per-year merit-based scholarships,” wrote Walker.

As of July, New College had 328 incoming students, a record for the school. Of the group, 115 are athletes, and 70 were recruited to play baseball, even though, as Walker reported, New College has no real sports facilities and has yet to be accepted into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. By comparison, the University of Florida’s far more established baseball team has 37 student-athletes.

To state the obvious, recruiting 70 (!) baseball players for a theoretical team that currently doesn’t have a stadium to play in isn’t about baseball per se. It’s about turing the school into a campus of Ron DeSantises:

Some new students may well end up immersing themselves in the great works of the Western canon. But last week, New College’s interim president, Richard Corcoran, a longtime Republican politician who served as DeSantis’s education commissioner, sent a memo to faculty members, proposing new majors in finance, communications and sports psychology, “which will appeal to many of our newly admitted athletes.” As Amy Reid, a New College professor of French who directs the gender studies department, said when I spoke to her last weekend, “Tell me how sports psychology, finance and communications fits with a classical liberal arts model.”

Rather than reviving some traditional model of academic excellence, then, it looks as though New College leaders are simply trying to replace a culture they find politically hostile with one meant to be more congenial. The end of gender studies and the special treatment given to incoming athletes are part of the same project, masculinizing a place that had been heavily feminist, artsy and queer. When I spoke to Rufo last weekend, he offered several explanations for New College’s new emphasis on sports, including the classical idea that a healthy body sustains a healthy mind. But an important part of the investment in athletics, he said, is that it is a way to make New College more male and, by extension, less left wing.

In the past, about two-thirds of New College’s students were women. “This is a wildly out-of-balance student population, and it caused all sorts of cultural problems,” said Rufo. Having so many more women than men, he said, turned New College into “what many have called a social justice ghetto.” The new leadership, he said, is “rebalancing the ratio of students” in the hopes of ultimately achieving gender parity.

“All sorts of cultural problems.”

But gender parity is not necessarily compatible with a pure academic meritocracy, which Rufo claims to prize. Women are outpacing men in education in many parts of the world, including Saudi Arabia and Iran. In Hungary, nearly 55 percent of university students are women, leading the government to warn about the “feminization” of higher education. Selective American colleges tend to have more female than male applicants; to maintain something approaching a gender balance, some have adopted lower standards for men. In other words, it often takes deliberate intervention — one might call it affirmative action — to create a student body in which women don’t predominate. New College isn’t jettisoning gender ideology. It’s just adopting a different one.

It goes without saying that Rufo and DeSantis don’t care at all about free speech or academic rigor or The Classics, and they strongly support affirmative action as long as it works to the advantage of mediocre* white men. I didn’t think they would be quite this naked about it, but they’re right that this is what all of their supporters actually want too, so no need for fig leaves. (I will also note that if you think that Roberts’s holding in Students For Fair Admissions v. Harvard was correct, then New College admissions are flagrantly unconstitutional unless US v. Virginia has been overruled. Fortunately for Rufo and DeSantis, I assume Roberts et al. will also be fine with any affirmative action program as long as women are the disadvantaged party.)

Now imagine how much of a cynical liar Cornel West has become to affirmatively defend the destruction of higher ed in Florida being wrought by the Himmler Twins.

…good tip in comments about Johanna Alonso’s piece about the sheer chaos at the New College. It’s really sad what these fascist barbarians are doing.

*Several commenters have observed that this word might imply that the admitted students do not deserve a good college education or that student-athletes are inherently incapable doing academic work. Since I certainly do not believe either of these things but can see how I might have implied them, I will retract it.

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