It’s unclear whether Scott Yenor is leaving Boise State University, or Idaho.
But the controversial political science professor clearly clamors for a slice of the national stage. He’ll probably get it. And that says a lot about the polarized debate over the politics of higher education, on the cusp of the 2024 presidential election.
Yenor is no stranger to culture wars. He’s never been exactly bashful either. The viral video of his October 2021 speech at a conservative conference in Florida — and his well-documented dismissal of career-oriented women as “medicated, meddlesome and quarrelsome” — ignited its intended firestorm, and caught Boise State in the uncomfortable glare. Some alums and parents urged Boise State to sanction or fire the tenured professor, which only reinforced Yenor’s street cred in conservative circles.
It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that Yenor has a new job title. He will work for the Claremont Institute — a conservative think tank dedicated to fighting what it considers woke campus policies. Yenor, who has served as a fellow with Claremont, will now be the group’s Tallahassee, Fla.-based senior director of state coalitions.
Yenor is on a year-long sabbatical at Boise State, his future with the university uncertain. “A faculty member is required to remain in their role for a year post-sabbatical unless they repay their partial salary for the year,” Boise State spokesman Mike Sharp said Tuesday. Boise State policy allows a full-time professor to moonlight — but only one day per week during their contract period, and on an unlimited basis during breaks in the academic calendar.
On LinkedIn, Yenor lists his Claremont job and his job at Boise State, where he has taught since 2000. This week, he sent this terse response to an interview request:
“Dear Mr. Richards (sic),
“Thank you for the interest but I’m not convinced you are anything but a troll with a blog. Provide evidence to the contrary please.
But we can still quote Yenor anyway, because he makes it so easy.
Like many professors, of all political persuasions, Yenor likes to get published. Like many journalists, Yenor also makes a point of tweeting out links to his articles. All of that makes it easy to see where he’s heading in his new position:
- In a Jan. 17 opinion piece in the American Reformer, Yenor calls for a private-public campaign “to stigmatize and destroy our current educational establishment.” He also puts a sharper edge on one of his old arguments: that too many Americans are going to college, a trend that weakens the traditional family. “As late as 1960, only 8% of the country went to college. The United States should move toward 8% from its current 46%.”
- In a guest opinion published by Newsweek on Jan. 23 — 16 days before his Florida job became public — Yenor called out what he considered the state’s modest attempt to reign in diversity, equity and inclusion programs. He specifically singled out Ben Sasse, the former Republican senator from Nebraska, recently named as the University of Florida’s new president. “The resounding victory for Florida Republicans in November’s election provides a unique opportunity. Woke will not merely go to die; it must be killed and replaced.”
- In a Feb. 13 opinion piece in the American Mind, Yenor again condemned what he considers out-of-step politics on a red-state campus. The basis of the article was a white paper — not unlike reports he has co-written, blasting social justice programs at Boise State and the University of Idaho. This time, the target was one of the nation’s largest public institutions, Texas A&M University. “Texas A&M is among the most conservative public universities in America, with a student body well to the right of its peers at other schools. … (Yet) those governing Texas A&M think the school itself is racist — and they have adopted increasingly radical policies to transform it into a typical, leftist American university.”
Yenor isn’t saying anything he hasn’t already been saying about higher education — or even about his current employer. (According to Transparent Idaho, the state’s online checkbook, Yenor is making $67,828 per year as a Boise State professor.)
But let’s put his recent writings into context. The political overtones could hardly be clearer.
“The Claremont Institute has been fighting to stop woke policies and Florida is on the frontlines of that fight,” the institute said in one of several Feb. 8 tweets announcing Yenor’s position. “Today we are excited to announce that we are expanding our state activities to Florida thanks to @GovRonDeSantis’ leadership to protect the American way of life.”
Team DeSantis was quick to return the compliment.
“Thrilled to welcome @scottyenor from the Claremont Institute to his new home in Tallahassee,” Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis tweeted. “Protecting Americans from infringing woke ideology is important work, and we are grateful Scott and the Claremont Institute picked Florida to continue their mission.”
These aren’t just Twitter sweet nothings.
DeSantis’ imminent presidential run will center largely on culture wars — and his oft-stated boast, paraphrased by Yenor, that Florida is a place where woke goes to die. Claremont and Yenor are clearly willing allies. An ideological endorsement, if not necessarily a formal one.
And whether Yenor remains at Boise State or moves to Tallahassee, his running commentary on higher education politics will only be a tweet away.
Each week, Kevin Richert writes an analysis on education policy and education politics. Look for it every Thursday.