MIAMI, Fla.- In his ﬁrst major move since taking over New College of Florida to shift the school in a more conservative direction, Republican Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed his conservative-member board to the college’s board of trustees.
New College President Richard Corcoran, a DeSantis ally and former House Speaker and education commissioner, reportedly ﬁred the dean and replaced him with a former GOP operative.
The takeover was met with opposition from students as the Sarasota college which is caught in the middle of DeSantis’ cultural wars that include his Stop W.O.K.E. Act, Don’t Say Gay bill and a proposed bill to ban state funding for public universities that teach courses in diversity, inclusion and equality.
DeSantis also rejected a proposed Advance Placement African American Studies course in Fla. high schools, saying it went against Fla. education standards including queer theory, critical race theory, afﬁrmative action and the Black Lives Matters movement.
DeSantis’ increasing agenda is fueling rumors that he’s running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
With the takeover of New College of Florida, the governor continues to wield his political power by mixing politics with education and clashing with progressives over limiting courses and lessons that are taught in the classrooms.
The NAACP Miami-Dade branch denounced House Bill 999 because it bans college major or minor degrees that are associated with race studies, ethnic studies, gender theory and social justice.
The civil rights organization contacted state lawmakers in Tallahassee to urge them to defeat the proposed bill.
"This is terrifying and un-American," the NAACP said in a statement. "The bill will ban centers for Black, Latino, Asian, AAPI, LGBTQ+ students and could ban all National Pan-Hellenic Council (Divine Nine) Organizations from public college campuses."
Chris Rufo, a conservative activist who was appointed to the New College Board of Trustees, said on Twitter New College of Florida can be the start of shifting colleges across America in a more conservative direction after decades of being dominated by the political left.
According to its website, New College of Florida is a public liberal arts college which offers more than 50 undergraduate majors and a master’s degree program in science.
The 110-acre campus on Sarasota Bay is home to about 700 students and 90 full time faculty engaged in interdisciplinary research and collaborative learning.
New College of Florida was accredited in 2004 by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate, baccalaureate and master’s degrees.
Students at New College of Florida oppose the governor’s takeover and changes he wants to bring to their education and culture.
"The main thing is the students. The students are still here. The students are still, you know, LGBT. The students still respect and encourage for a diverse array of studies and want to understand the truth about society. And as long as we’re here they can’t change the culture of the school," trans student Sam Sharf told MSNBC."
Another student alleged that DeSantis only wants students to learn about "White-man history."
"I think a lot of what they’ve talked about has been cloaking language and I feel like they think we’re not smart enough to see that it’s cloaking language so they’ll say classical liberal education, they’ll say family values, they’ll say all these things, and every time they have opportunity to change leadership, to change anything, it always is White male," she said.
New College student Kayla Kisseadoo said she "literally could not tell you" what DeSantis means when he uses terms like "woke" and "critical race theory."
"’Woke’ – you mean practicing basic empathy? Valuing people who are a part of your community? ‘Critical Race Theory’ – you mean American history? Like, it’s so confusing, so it’s incredibly frustrating to constantly hear all these buzzwords being thrown at us when they have no basis and they don’t even seek to understand why we’re here," Kisseadoo continued.
Democrats are criticizing DeSantis for repackaging Fla. education system to align with his political agenda in a more aggressive conservative approach, all indications for his bid for the White House.
During a recent roundtable discussion by DeSantis in West Palm Beach, Rufo blasted the diversity, equity and inclusion programs at Fla. universities including an endocrinology program at the University of Florida that offers gender-affirming care and a social justice badge program at Fla. International University.
The roundtable discussion centered on divisive concepts such as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives, Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the impact the concepts have had on Florida higher education institutions and the students.
“In Fla., we are not going to back down to the woke mob, and we will expose the scams they are trying to push onto students across the country,” said DeSantis. “Fla. students will receive an education, not a political indoctrination.”
Commissioner of Education, Manny Diaz Jr., a Republican from Hialeah, said “DEI divides students and at its very core is the antithesis to its so-called mission.
“These initiatives have completely transformed over the years, from what were once simple efforts to ensure equal access to all students, to now focusing on ideology over merit. Thank you to Gov. DeSantis for hosting this important roundtable event as we work to eliminate DEI from colleges and universities in Fla.," Diaz said.
State Senator Shervin Jones, a Democrat from West Park who’s DeSantis’ most vocal critic, said the governor is focused more on his cultural wars during the legislative session and ignoring economic and social issues impacting Florida residents.
"What we see from this governor is a strong desire to go after anybody who thinks differently than he does," Jones said. "He doesn’t care if you’re Disney or a small restaurant in Wynwood in Miami. This will be a session filled with cultural wars not focusing on the economic needs of everyday Floridians. Why Republicans want to ban books, we are fighting to ensure that every child can read by the time they reach third grade because currently nearly half of third grade students are not reading on grade level. These are the things we are fighting for. The things that people can see and they can actually touch and feel that their lives are progressing."