Dissecting the Political Takeover of a State University in Florida 2023

Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Republican governor, has chosen a small public liberal arts institution on Sarasota Bay to launch his assault against “woke.”

The governor and his friends argue the progressive New College of Florida, with a large LGBTQ+ community, is indoctrinating students with liberal philosophy and should be reformed into a conservative school.

New College students and professors label DeSantis’ supporters’ top-down restructuring a “hostile takeover” and a political attack on academic freedom.

The New College conquest thus far

Jan. 6: Gov. Ron DeSantis appoints six new members to New College’s 13-member Board of Trustees, packing the board with Republican allies and insiders: Christopher Rufo, conservative activist, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and architect of right-wing outrage over critical race theory Jason “Eddie” Speir, co-founder and superintendent of a Christian school in Bradenton, Florida Matthew Spalding, professor and dean at conservative Hillsdale College; senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute

Ryan Anderson, conservative think tank president, becomes Florida’s eighth trustee on January 26.

Jan. 31 – New trustees dismiss New College president Patricia Okker. -Board announces temporary President Richard Corcoran, former Republican speaker of the Florida State House and DeSantis’ first Commissioner of Education. Corcoran’s base compensation is $699,000, twice Okker’s. The board also hires attorney and former GOP Florida Senate president Bill Galvano as general counsel.

New trustees’ second meeting. In order to cut diversity and equity expenses, the board votes to dissolve New College’s Office of Outreach and Inclusive Excellence. DEI programs treat “people differently depending on their skin color or other inborn identities,” according to new trustee Rufo.

March 3: Corcoran fires transgender chief diversity officer Yoleidy Rosario-Hernandez.

March 23: New College reports Provost Suzanne Sherman, who openly fought with incoming trustees, has “stepped down” and will be replaced by an interim provost.

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