Daily Bread for 10.12.22: The Florida Affirmative Action Hire and Wisconsin’s Own Educational Politics

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will see scattered showers with a high of 61. Sunrise is 7:05 AM and sunset 6:16 PM for 11h 10m 42s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 92.1% of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Police and Fire Commission meets at 6:30 PM

On this day in 1810, the residents of Munich hold the first Oktoberfest in celebration of the marriage of Crown Prince Louis of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen.

Writing at the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin describes the candidacy of U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) to lead the University of Florida as an affirmative action hire. See Ben Sasse: An affirmative action hire if there ever was one. Rubin explains:

Conservatives have long bemoaned the politicization of higher education, accusing faculty and administrators of catering to “wokeness” and engaging in cancel culture personnel policies. Now, we will see how deep their concern about academic freedom really is, thanks to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse.

DeSantis is seeking to install Sasse as president of the University of Florida, which many students, faculty, administrators and donors perceive as an assault on academic independence. And for good reason: DeSantis makes no bones about his contempt for free speech and academic freedom.

The governor has championed an anti-protest law and a measure attempting to bar teachers from talking about race in classrooms, both of which were blocked in state court. He also backed the infamous “don’t say gay” bill, suspended a state attorney for speaking out against the state’s abortion restrictions and, most ominously, changed Disney’s tax status after the company criticized his LGBTQ policies. And he’s routinely tried to exclude the media from events.

With regard to higher education, DeSantis is widely suspected to be behind the University of Florida’s attempt to bar professors from testifying against the state’s voter suppression bill. He also supported legislation that created an exemption to the state’s open government laws, thereby allowing the University of Florida to conduct its president selection process behind closed doors.

Given that the governor’s chief of staff reportedly helped guide Sasse through the selection process, the ensuing outrage that DeSantis is attempting to put a Republican flunky atop the state’s flagship institution was hardly unexpected. Sasse’s vocal opposition to same-sex marriage and support for right-wing Supreme Court judges who disposed of nearly 50 years of abortion precedent naturally don’t sit well in a diverse university setting.

Sasse provided a lame defense of his views during a recent student forum. “The fact that I’ve had political positions and policy positions that reflect the views of Nebraskans, it’s a different job than president of UF.”

No one here credibly thinks that Jay Rothman, longtime attorney and now UW System president, has an ideological record like the one Rubin describes. (It is fair to wonder why the System couldn’t find an academic as its leader, and to wonder more so whether Rothman will be able to overcome demographic and budget constraints at the System.)

Nonetheless, here in Wisconsin, there are legitimate concerns about the politicization of education. James Henderson of UW-Whitewater abruptly left his position as UW-Whitewater chancellor with stated complaints over politicization, and Republican legislators habitually seek control over UW System decisions about which they know nothing. (The Republicans contend that they habitually intervene only to prevent additional politicization, but that approach is more retributive than corrective.)

Wisconsin isn’t Florida, but evolving even a bit closer to Florida seems more curse than blessing.  

This Mach-5 engine will do what no other can:

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