Middlebury seems to be an institution that values justice. We certainly talk about it constantly, so if one can infer importance from repetition, we do value it. Climate Justice, Reproductive Justice, Housing Justice, Environmental Justice. But to be able to have productive discussions about those topics, we (as students and citizens) need to have a sense of justice that is grounded in more than a vague sense of ‘what feels right’ or the values that our community tells us are correct. This lack of a tried and tested, thoughtful and rigorous, ethical framework to defend our convictions is a dangerous weakness.
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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appointed six new members to the Board of Trustees at the New College of Florida on Jan. 6. It’s a small, public liberal arts institution, with about 700 students, a unique teaching style focused on academic experimentation over a strict curriculum, and an impressive track record of producing impressive alumni. It also has a reputation for being the most progressive college in Florida. Or it, at least, had that reputation, as the new Trustees are a set of hard-right firebrands that have been tasked with taking the college down to its studs and building a new institution in its place. The most prominent of the six is Christopher Rufo, a hardliner at the far-right Claremont Institute who made his name attacking critical race theory and “gender ideology.” DeSantis’ decision is a particularly brazen move, but it is not an isolated act. Higher education has been considered a bastion of the left for some time, but as conservatives have become more statist and assertive, they now seem willing to use the government to cudgel universities. And universities are more vulnerable than ever.