Amidst Gov. Ron DeSantis‘s (R) hostile takeover of the Florida education system, the New College of Florida is struggling to hold onto its faculty.
In January, DeSantis appointed the far-right anti-LGBTQ+ activist Christopher Rufo, among other conservatives, to the New College’s board of trustees in an effort to make the school more conservative. The college had a reputation for being progressive and queer-friendly, but Rufo said the board would conduct a “top-down restructuring” of the school that will involve designing “a new core curriculum from scratch.”
One person said he was pushed to the ground and kicked. Another, who used a wheelchair, was forced to get out to be escorted out.
But now, Provost Bradley Thiessen says 36 faculty have left in the past year alone. In a school with fewer than 100 full-time faculty members, that’s a lot. The Tampa Bay Times reported that it often takes over a year for universities to fill full-time positions, and without any advanced notice from the majority of the departed faculty, the school is now struggling to provide all of the courses that students need.
Get the Daily Brief
The news you care about, reported on by the people who care about you:
Currently, the school is relying on visiting faculty, but it’s still not enough. Former New College professor Liz Leininger said that although she felt guilty leaving her students, she ultimately decided to leave after the former school president Patricia Okker was fired upon the new board’s first meeting. Leininger left a vacancy in the neuroscience department, also leaving students like third-year Alaska Miller in the lurch.
“Either I don’t graduate on time or I’d have to abandon my major,” Miller said, referencing the fact that there is only one faculty member left in the school’s neuroscience department and no courses offered this fall.
During his time in office, DeSantis has waged war on public education, most notably through his “Don’t Say Gay” law and his vendetta against the teaching of racial and LGBTQ+ issues in schools.
In May, he signed a law forbidding colleges and universities from spending state or federal funding on programs that promote political or social activism or “diversity, equity, and inclusivity” (DEI). DeSantis said such DEI programs often actually stand for “discrimination, exclusion, and indoctrination.”
In 2022, DeSantis signed the so-called “Stop WOKE Act,” which forbids schools and businesses from offering educational programs on racism and gender-based discrimination. The law is currently on hold as a court considers its impact on constitutionally protected rights to free speech.