TALLAHASSEE, FL – Following what’s described as a “hostile takeover” by right-wing conservatives, at the progressive New College of Florida, students and prospective graduates are protesting daily.
The latest comes as students held an alternate commencement on Thursday evening – rather than listen to the administration’s choice of former Trump adviser Dr. Scott Atlas, scheduled to speak at Friday’s commencement.
Alumni and student organizers welcomed Maya Wiley with The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to be Thursday’s keynote speaker.
Second-year International Relations student Nisreen Kalai described feeling trapped with the school’s new leadership, and Gov. DeSantis’ restrictive laws on education.
“Makes it feel like inescapable,” said Kalai. “Like, even if I did go to another university in Florida, it’s just going to be the same thing of, you know, ‘Diversity doesn’t matter to us.’ That’s just the statement that they are making, is that we want this place to be – Florida to be – a conservative playground.”
DeSantis and his allies contend the college – with a prominent LGBTQ+ community – is indoctrinating students with leftist ideology and should be remade into a more conservative institution.
This week, DeSantis used the campus as his backdrop to sign into a law a measure aimed at prohibiting colleges and universities from spending money on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs.
Kalai said the last four months have been tough for students, seeing faculty resign and students choosing to self-govern.
She said they’re taking on their own diversity clubs, since faculty is now barred from being advisors to many campus organizations.
“The environment of being here has not felt the same,” said Kalai. “And personally I don’t like the fact that I have to wake up in the beginning of my exam week and protest bills that are directly affecting my education.”
The governor also signed a separate bill to prevent colleges and universities from requiring “political loyalty” tests for students and employees as a condition of admission or employment.
New College in Sarasota became a sticking point for DeSantis’s aim at transforming higher education. He replaced trustees with conservative members, who later fired the school’s president.