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Group gathers at New College, to erase cancel culture

Written by on Wednesday, June 5, 2024

The event features like-minded panelists and a cowboy-boot wearing governor.

By Mark Warriner

Original Air Date: June 5, 2024

Host: At the New College graduation ceremony last year, Scott Atlas saw students and their parents turn their backs to him. One year later – after yet another protest-filled commencement, the exodus of nearly half the faculty, and having turned the 700-student honors college into probably the most athletic campus anywhere – New College President Richard Corcoran put the radiologist and his struggle against scientific consensus on how to deal with pandemics in the spotlight again. Dr. Atlas was tasked with putting together a full-day event at Sainer Auditorium, to make the case for freeing universities from “ideological capture”. The event – partly funded by Florida taxpayers – featured a cowboy-boot wearing Florida governor giving a fight-Woke stomp speech, a dozen mostly like-minded panelists, and a little bit of philosophical discussion. WSLR reporter Mark Warriner was there to listen and watch.

Mark Warriner: The symposium about “Reversing the ideological capture of universities” began with breakfast and a half-full 260-seat auditorium. 

There was a group of young people who looked like high-school students. There was a New College student who took the buffet lunch to protesters across the street. There was a community member, who paid $75, to hear for himself what the anti-woke warriors had to say. And there was an elderly Black lady, who indicated she was a conservative hoping to publish a book about Black inventors, scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. A young mother from Lakewood Ranch with her child, waiting in the breakfast line, explained she was there to see Jay Bhattacharya, the Stanford University health policy expert who advocates against widespread COVID lockdowns.

Photo: Mark Warriner

Scott Atlas told WSLR News that he and Gov. Ron DeSantis had organized the event together with Richard Corcoran. He said he was doing it on behalf of the Washington-based Global Liberties Institute, which helped fund the event, along with New College. The logistical costs, such as use of the venue, staffing the event, food and beverage, fell to the public college, and thus Florida taxpayers. New College charged non-students and staff $75 per ticket, to defray some of those costs.

Panel discussions touched on the “Humanities” — the most repressive area of academe, according to one panelist — and on “Economics and Data-Driven Inquiry”. On “Science and Public Health”, Scott Atlas was the most outspoken panelist, accusing the government of “heinous propaganda” during the COVID crisis. There also were panels on  “Law”, and on “Policy and Reform”. In the latter, Atlas reiterated the need for scientists and academics to “get a spine”.

A common thread were stories about panelists having been canceled by the Left. Jay Bhattacharya, the infectious disease expert, described his experience when he was admonished for not supporting the masking of infants. 

A debate between two panelists sitting in the audience proved to be the liveliest part of the symposium. English literature and law expert Stanley Fish, a visiting professor at New College, debated with Richard Epstein, law professor at New York University, over book interpretation and the nature of law. Fish rose to admonish the Humanities panel. Epstein stood up to defend the panel and admonished Fish. 

Shortly after the symposium began, Corcoran announced that Gov. Ron DeSantis would be the “special guest speaker” listed at the end of the event program. By 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the venue was full, with local TV camera crews and reporters flocking to see the governor. A wave of anticipation rushed through the venue, and a sleepy audience woke up.

At 4:30, the cowboy boot-clad governor walked on stage through a side door. In stump speech fashion, garnering hollers and applause, DeSantis talked about how the Left has infected universities, and how he had put Florida on the forefront of fighting back. He listed new institutions he created at state universities that celebrate the achievements of the United States of America and western civilization. And he touted the difference Corcoran has made at New College.

Ron DeSantis: I don’t think you’ve seen more dramatic improvement at any institution, over — what are we talking about wow? We’re talking about a year-and-half since we really started to do … I look at the facilities, I look at all the improvements, a lot of interest in what’s going on. So this is the right thing to do. But the mission is, we want a liberal arts education that is rooted in the Western tradition, that is a classical education similar to what our Founding Fathers had when they went to universities. That is something that I think will attract people, not just throughout Florida, but throughout the country. I think there’s a lot of parents, especially what you see going on in some of these other university campuses. Now the insanity in universities is not new. But I think what you’ve seen since October 7 has brought that to bear in ways that people really can’t shake it, because they see how insane this has become. Where you have people in the aftermath of babies being executed in ovens, people being raped, and elderly people being beheaded. This really what was below barbarity. And yet these students think that the thing to do is to go out there and to do Hamas. Now, that to me, that was bad enough, but then the thing, you can commandeer the university, the property, offices. Columbia even held like some janitor hostage. Letting the inmates run the asylum doesn’t work. So you’ve seen a sickness in these universities. And I think it’s something now that I mean, I’ve been taught… talked to people who are very, very high up in finance and all these other things. When I was running for governor, they would have never said, ‘You’re better off at Florida than Columbia or Harvard’. They would never have said that. Now they’re saying that, people are telling me … [applause]

Reporting for WSLR News, this is Mark Warriner.


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