When Republicans take over higher education

New College in Sarasota, Florida, is part of Florida’s public university system. It has no fraternities or football team, but as Florida’s designated honors college, pumps out Fulbright scholars. It’s “a haven for brainy kids who are high-achieving and intellectually curious,” but may not feel a sense of belonging in conventional settings. Some struggle with ADHD or are queer. Here, in New College’s accepting environment, they thrive — or did.

New College is all the things conservatives hate — progressive, freethinking, intellectually curious. Florida’s public universities have over 340,000 students; only 675 attend New College, yet Gov. DeSantis feels so threatened by this little liberal arts college he mounted a “hostile takeover,” and now politicians — not educators, but ideologues, some with militaristic ideas — are running it.

The first thing they did was abolish the diversity office. Gender studies will be banned, and the liberal arts curriculum will be replaced with conservative indoctrination. Professors won’t be allowed to address binary students with “they” and “them” pronouns. Faculty members are so afraid they don’t use their staff emails. Students are scared, too. There is no academic freedom here anymore. The governor’s declared intention is that this school, as it has existed, won’t exist anymore.

More than democracy is under attack by rightwing Republicans; the right to think and speak freely, and be who you are, is too. And now higher education is in their crosshairs, and professors and students — and academic freedom — are being swept up in their “culture wars.”

Read story here.

Update (5/17/23): New College’s 2023 graduates have decided to shun the official commencement and organize their own “alternative graduation” ceremony (read story here). Will the conservatives now running the college withhold diplomas from those who snub the Trump-allied, Covid-denier official keynote speaker?

Return to The-Ave.US Home Page

Comments are closed.