Professor Says He ‘Would Burn’ Down Florida College In Resignation Letter

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Alexa Schwerha Contributor
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A New College of Florida (NCF) professor wrote that he would burn down campus buildings if he were not “more patriotic,” according to a letter sent to interim President Richard Corcoran.

Aaron Hillegass, NCF director of applied data science, wrote to Corcoran to inform that he would not be renewing his contract when it expires on August 22, according to the letter posted to Twitter. The notice came in opposition to turning the Florida college into “The Hillsdale of the South,” a nod to the conservative Michigan school, after Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed six conservative members to the Board of Trustees in January. (RELATED: Gavin Newsom Tries To Comfort Florida College Students Outraged At DeSantis Takeover)

“If I were more patriotic, I would burn the college’s buildings to the ground,” Hillegass wrote. “However, the soft spot in my heart for the students and faculty who remain prevents this. Thus, I will (not outraged, just moved by a nagging sense of duty) vote with my feet, and simply walk away.”

Hillegass later clarified that he would “never burn a building down” and that the language was “poetic flourish that sounded cool until it showed up in the Sarasota Herald Tribune.”

“The line about burning buildings is pretty mild.  It says ‘I’m not going to burn down any buildings.  I’m just going to walk away,'” Hillegass told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “I believe that no one should burn down any buildings in this situation.”

He quit his job because the college “had become a tool of the far right, and I believed it would do damage to our nation,” he told the DCNF.

“My ancestors include Michael Hillegas who was the treasurer of the Continental Congress. The ideas of the extreme right, those pushed by Hillsdale College, are tearing this nation apart,” he explained. “Michael Hillegas and his friends who created this nation imagined a pluralistic society where we worked together to find a common ground.  To imagine that politics is a football game where only one side wins is anti-American.”

Hillegass was hired soon before DeSantis appointed the new board members, he said on Twitter. The board voted during the first meeting in January to fire former President Patricia Okker and appointed Corcoran, who served as education commissioner in the DeSantis administration.

“When a governor guts the leadership of a state school in an effort to make a facsimile of Hillsdale, that is fascism,” he wrote. “Not the shocking Kristallnacht-style fascism, but the banal fascism that always precedes it.”

The changes at NCF are an “experiment” and, if successful, “the academic freedom of every state school under a conservative governor will be in peril,” he wrote.

“Many people in Florida may disagree with my politics, but when enough smart, experienced people like me walk away, red states will have a difficult time creating a modern workforce,” Hillegass told the DCNF. “Even if you disagree with me, you should want me teaching in the university your grandchildren attend.”

NCF did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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