Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his plan to overhaul the ideological education system at New College of Florida (NCF) and restore its original mission.
DeSantis will appoint six new members of NCF’s board of trustees: activist Chris Rufo, Dr. Mark Bauerlein, Dr. Matthew Spalding, Dr. Charles Kesler, lawyer Debra Jenks and educator Jason “Eddie” Speir. The Florida Board of Governors will also appoint a seventh member.
The 13-member board now has enough members to reshape the public college’s ideological courses and campus environment.
“As Governor DeSantis stated in his second inaugural speech: ‘We must ensure that our institutions of higher learning are focused on academic excellence and the pursuit of truth.’ Starting today, the ship is turning around. New College of Florida, under the governor’s new appointees, will be refocused on its founding mission of providing a world-class quality education with an exceptional focus on the classics,” Bryan Griffin, the press secretary for DeSantis, said in a statement.
NCF currently lists among its values “a just, diverse, equitable and inclusive community,” echoing the progressive ideology of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), better known as critical race theory. The school is “actively working toward eliminating outcome disparities for underrepresented and underserved groups,” it says in its values section.
“It is our hope that New College of Florida will become Florida’s classical college, more along the lines of a Hillsdale of the South,” James Uthmeier, Chief of Staff for DeSantis said.
Emily Stack Davis, a spokesperson for Hillsdale College, noted, “The compliment is flattering, but after 175 years, we’ve got the ‘Hillsdale’ copyright secure and the college is quite at home in the great state of Michigan.”
“All joking aside,” she added, “the growth of the classical liberal arts is a wonderful thing, and the prospect of any liberal arts college returning to its founding mission is a source of hope for the nation.”
The school provides certain services, like its Office of Inclusive Excellence, a gender studies program and its Gender and Diversity Center. It celebrates “latinx” history month through films, workshops, concerts and lectures, its website says. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Trump Insiders Speak Out On His Real Views About DeSantis)
NCF’s Office of Inclusive Excellence, the DEI office on campus, documents “outcomes and learnings from Phase I of the Inclusive Campus Climate initiative” and develops “campus-wide DEI key metrics and milestones, and support departmental implementation,” according to its page.
The NCF gender studies program offers courses in queer studies, queer history and feminist philosophy as part of its curriculum. It lists “community relations and organizing” among its potential career paths.
It also provides students with “gender identity affirmation resources” to assist students with legal name changes and updating their pronouns, according to a resource form.
In 2001, the Florida legislature separated NCF from the University of South Florida (USF) system and outlined a mission “combining educational innovation with educational excellence,” and to “provide a quality education to students of high ability who, because of their ability, deserve a program of study that is both demanding and stimulating.”
DeSantis’ promised to challenge ideological education in his inaugural address Tuesday.
“We must ensure school systems are responsive to parents and to students, not partisan interest groups, and we must ensure that our institutions of higher learning are focused on academic excellence and the pursuit of truth, not the imposition of trendy ideology,” DeSantis said.
“Today, Governor DeSantis made six appointments to the New College Board of Trustees. These appointments fill positions that were previously vacant or expired, and I am grateful that New College will now have a full board,” NCF President Dr. Patricia Okker said in a Friday statement sent to the Daily Caller. “My thanks to the Governor for today’s announcement and for the slate of new board members. I look forward to getting to know them and working with them to ensure New College continues to serve our students, community, and state in the years to come.”
“I would also like to thank all our outgoing board members for their time and service,” Okker added.
(Update: This story has been updated with a statement from New College of Florida.)