You knew that you would someday read that the pet university of Ron DeSantis, the anti-woke, anti-DEI, New College Florida, would descend into utter chaos and near-ruin.
This is the exact result one expects when you do what DeSantis did. Fire the president, the Board of Trustees, the DEI program, and five professors.
DeSantis did this as a model, rebuilding a major learning institution and limiting what will be taught and learned.
In this case, the curriculum fits what far-right conservatives consider politically palatable at the moment.
Though universities and colleges make a lot of money, most still hold on to their basic mission: to provide the best education possible with the resources at their disposal.
One can’t be educated without the ability to see the world from all points of view (Including conservative).
Learn a baseline of knowledge in an area you choose and then, most critically, learn how to think and how to learn. That is an “education.”
You can’t start with an agenda where the students will learn various subjects limited to one political party’s propaganda.
New College Florida sure has an agenda, and that agenda is getting in the way.
From an Inside Higher Ed report:
“This fall will mark the first new academic year since DeSantis began his overhaul of the liberal arts college, the smallest public institution in Florida, by appointing six new conservative trustees. Many students were nervous about returning to NCF under the new leadership, which in short order fired former president Patricia Okker, axed the diversity, equity, and inclusion office, and denied five faculty members tenure. But as the fall semester inches closer, it is becoming increasingly apparent just how much dysfunction New College’s students will have to contend with this year.”
As bad as that sounds, it’s actually worse when one gets into the details. Over 40 faculty members have left what was already a small college. Only one faculty member remains on the Board of Trustees.
Students are left to fill out expensive college credits for a semester with “chorus” or something equally non-academic — attractive to some, but not considered rigorous study by others.
The New College doesn’t have “Majors,” it has areas of concentration — which sounds like a desperate plan to come up with the same thing, only make it sound new.
A former New College student is transferring to a school in Massachusetts because he could only find two classes that counted toward his “area of concentration.”
He had a choice. He could delay graduating at New College with a degree in his area of concentration. Pick another “concentration.” Or leave.
He is leaving — and he won’t be the first.
The report doesn’t list the exact cause for the limited number of courses available, but it surely has to do with the shrinking faculty. Throughout the summer, students received cancellation notices for courses that they had signed up for.
There have also been problems with housing for the students.
Then there are courses that one wonders if perhaps they were canceled for a different reason. For instance, Philosophy of the Mind is not offered this semester. The report doesn’t note why.
Administrators at New College will not respond to questions about the problems, most of which can be traced straight back to “New College’s raison d’etre,” to be a college that is as conservative as a DeSantis cartoon about slavery.
They will surely find a niche. They will hire some very conservative professors, ban “pseudoscience” (Self-defined by the University) and all DEI and CRT programs. Anything that smells of liberalism will surely soon be gone.
It will attract a “type” of student.
So it’s too soon to write off the New College’s future. But that future, as it’s envisioned, is one in which graduates probably shouldn’t even bother applying to top medical, law, education, or engineering graduate programs.
Top graduate schools look for a well-rounded (not necessarily liberal) education.
Even if you’re going to be an engineer, you better take some decent English courses. A medical student best study some philosophy and ethics.
And, as I tell every aspiring law student, take macroeconomics and every English course you can get your hands on. Don’t worry about any “law” class. They will teach you everything you need to know in law school.
And when the top graduate schools look at applicants, they want to see them challenged in how to think, not necessarily what to think.
This school’s problems were obvious from the very beginning in that the primary mission wasn’t a good, well-rounded education— but an education based on an extreme political agenda.
There is nothing inherently wrong with universities that have a conservative agenda. But they must be committed to providing a deeply intellectual education first – as a college or university. Once they master that, then maybe concentrate on conservative programs.
It is a DeSantis campaign toy, nothing more, and normally would end when DeSantis’s political ambitions end. But DeSantis has embedded true believers — and they will be there until someone tells them to go.
DeSantis’s campaign may not last through Halloween in 2023.
But these students are about to embark on a scary couple of semesters.
This column was based on a fantastic report written by Johana Alonso of Inside Higher Ed
I can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @JasonMiciak.
Editor’s Note: This is an opinion piece reflecting the opinion of the author alone