Inside the Bombshell Proposal for the University of Florida's Hamilton Center

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tags: Florida, higher education, University of Florida

Early last year, a provocative proposal landed in the inbox of a senior administrator at the University of Florida.

The six-page Word document argued that the fundamental mission of a university — to seek truth — was threatened by “cancel culture and uniformity of opinion on campus.”

To counter those formidable threats, a new academic unit would act as a defense.

The Hamilton Center for Classical and Civic Education, named after the founding father, would promote freedom of thought, provide students with a “nonpartisan civic education” in American ideals, teach the great books of the Western canon, and improve the political and intellectual diversity of UF’s faculty body, according to the proposal.

By design, the center would operate differently from a typical academic unit. It would be located outside of existing departments and colleges. It would offer its own courses and degree programs and hire faculty members whose appointments would reside entirely in the center. An external board of advisers would recommend initial faculty hires to the president and to the university’s Board of Trustees, which together would make final selections. “If Hamilton Center faculty were to be hired through existing departments, the result would be a replication of what already exists,” the document said.

All told, a “robust and fiercely independent” center would “provide choice for Florida’s students and their parents” who are “dissatisfied with the present offerings.”

The proposal was sent by Adrian Lukis, a partner at a prominent lobbying firm and former chief of staff to Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Republican governor. He’d been hired to advocate for the center’s creation by a nonprofit organization with virtually no public profile, the Council on Public University Reform.

On January 22, 2022, Lukis emailed the proposal to Mark Kaplan, the university’s vice president for government and community relations. Kaplan wanted to know what UF’s president and provost thought of the pitch, so he sent the document their way.

Joseph Glover, the provost, said it wouldn’t fly.

“Adjustments would need to be made if this were to have any hope of passing muster internally with the faculty and externally with our accreditors,” Glover wrote in a document explaining his critiques.

Read entire article at Chronicle of Higher Education