Last week, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights opened an investigation into New College of Florida, where I serve as a trustee, regarding alleged “disability discrimination.”
The investigation was prompted by a complaint by ACLU attorney Jennifer Granick, alleging that the college’s trustees and administrators violated civil rights law by removing “gender neutral” signage from bathrooms, defunding the DEI and gender studies programs, and “misgendering” the former DEI director and a former student, who use “ze/zir” and “they/them” pseudo-pronouns, respectively. According to the complaint, these actions constitute discrimination “based on perceived disability and gender prejudice.”
As a tactical matter, the complaint is a clear attempt to disrupt the conservative reforms at New College, which represent a threat to the Left’s hegemony over higher education. Since January, when the new board of trustees was announced, New College has secured record funding from the state legislature, begun a campus-wide renovation, launched a new core curriculum, and recruited the largest incoming class in the college’s history. For left-wing activists, who had previously considered New College as an outpost for social-justice activism, this state of affairs—conservative leaders implementing conservative reforms—was intolerable. They might chant for “democracy” in theory, but, in practice, they are more than willing to use anti-democratic tools to restrict any democratic action that might undermine their cultural power.