Rufo often talks about the “long march through the institutions,” a phrase coined by the German socialist Rudi Dutschke in 1967 but frequently attributed to the Italian communist Antonio Gramsci. Thwarted in their hope of imminent revolution, the new left of Dutschke’s generation sought instead to bore into political and cultural institutions, working within the system to change the basic assumptions of Western society. Rufo’s trying, he said, to “steal the strategies and the principles of the Gramscian left, and then to organize a kind of counterrevolutionary response to the long march through the institutions.”
This grandiose project has several parts. Rufo has been unparalleled in fanning public education culture wars, whipping up anger first against critical race theory and then against teaching on L.G.B.T.Q. issues. This year, he is turning his attention to diversity, equity and inclusion programs, and, with his colleagues at the Manhattan Institute, will soon unveil model legislation to abolish such programs at state schools. In New College, he sees a chance to create a new type of educational institution to replace those he’s trying to destroy. When we spoke, he compared his plans to Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter.
Later this month, Rufo said, he’ll travel to New College with a “landing team” of board members, lawyers, consultants and political allies. “We’re going to be conducting a top-down restructuring,” he said, with plans to “design a new core curriculum from scratch” and “encode it in a new academic master plan.” Given that Hillsdale, the template for this reimagined New College, worked closely with the Trump administration to create a “patriotic education” curriculum, this master plan will likely be heavy on American triumphalism. Rufo hopes to move fast, saying that the school’s academic departments “are going to look very different in the next 120 days.”
The values of the people who are already at New College are of little concern to Rufo, who, like several other new trustees, doesn’t live in Florida. Speaking of current New College students who chose it precisely for its progressive culture, Rufo said: “We’re happy to work with them to make New College a great place to continue their education. Or we’d be happy to work with them to help them find something that suits them better.”
Of course, as both leftist revolutionaries and colonialists have learned over the years, replacing one culture with another can be harder than anticipated. New College students may not go quietly. Steve Shipman, a professor of physical chemistry and president of the faculty union, points out that tenured professors are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, which makes it hard to fire them unless there’s cause. People like Rufo “are making statements to make impact,” Shipman said. “And I really don’t know how viable some of those statements are on the ground.”