August 18, 2023

Johanna Alonso: Chaos at New College of Florida

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They were so excited; in one fell swoop they could get rid of a liberal college and start up one that embraced the right ideology. Johanna Alonso reports for Inside Higher Ed on how that’s going. First, there was the faculty exodus.

Now, as students prepare for the fall semester, the impact of the faculty exodus is becoming apparent: many classes won’t be offered at New College this term.

The course catalogue was already sparse when students first began looking at classes last spring. Dani Delaney, the mother of one former New College student who is transferring to Hampshire College in Massachusetts—which guaranteed admission to all New College students in good standing—said her son could only find two classes that counted toward his “area of concentration” (which is what New College calls majors). When he contacted the institution about the lack of relevant courses, she said, he was told the course catalogue was “in flux” and to “choose something else.”

“These are young adults who are not looking to fill up a semester with high school electives. It’s not like, ‘Oh, chorus is closed, let me just go take that art class,’” she said. “There are classes [students] need to take to continue to propel [their] studies forward … that was just an absolute stunning thing to have a college tell us, just pick something else. No.”

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 Okkeraxed 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.

The shrinking course catalogue isn’t their only worry. With just under two weeks until the academic year starts, students are also reckoning with last-minute class cancellations, poorly communicated housing changes and concerns about their ability to complete their mandatory senior capstone projects.

It’s almost as if the DeSantis crew doesn’t really understand how a college works. Read the full piece here. 

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