New College, Florida, is a small public school known for its unconventionality until Gov. Ron DeSantis embarked on sweeping reforms this year. Ta.
Many were recruited athletes wearing T-shirts branded with the school’s new mascot, a muscular, sinuous banyan tree. They stood out among the returning students, many walking around campus barefoot and with brightly dyed hair.
“Are these people going to be okay with us being weird?” Fourth-grader Emma Curtis, 21, said others expressed similar concerns.
The influx of athletes is the latest shake-up at New College since DeSantis and his allies vowed in January to turn the liberal arts college known as Florida’s “public honors college” into a bastion of conservatism. This is just one of the major changes. About 30 people, more than a third of last year’s faculty, have left. The same goes for the approximately 125 students who chose not to return to their home countries.
The school’s freshman class of 338 is the largest in its history, compared to about 700 students last year. The proportion of black, Hispanic and male students is also higher than in previous years, according to the administration. More than 200 students were moved from on-campus dorms to off-campus hotels to make room for recruited athletes and other freshmen.
Significant changes in the climate have led to a series of legal problems. Alumni, faculty, and students filed a lawsuit alleging that it violates free speech and amounts to academic censorship. The U.S. Department of Education investigate complaints New College said the new version discriminated on the basis of disability.Alumni criticize new leadership In a separate federal complaint Acts that discriminate against LGBTQ students by creating a hostile environment and excluding some LGBTQ students.
The Board of Regents, led by DeSantis allies, and interim President Richard Corcoran dismissed the critics as a disaffected minority and deemed the review a success. The state Legislature sent about $50 million to the school this year, a significant increase from recent years. New students were provided with newly designated scholarships and laptops. The moldy dormitory was closed. The school then created an athletic club with plans to field six teams.
“What New College lacked more than anything was leadership,” Corcoran, a former Florida House speaker and state education commissioner, said in an interview. “We did something that we had not been able to accomplish in our 63 years at the university and that was enrollment growth. We did it during a period of complete upheaval and negative publicity.”
Much of Mr. DeSantis’ criticism of New College before the overhaul centered on what he characterized as “woke indoctrination” on college campuses. One of the new leadership’s first actions was to eliminate the university’s diversity office.Immediately thereafter, I met with the head of diversity. academic librarianboth members of the LGBTQ community were fired.
The faculty representative on the board resigned after five professors were denied tenure due to what Corcoran called a move toward a “more traditional liberal arts institution.” Some of the new administrators hired for top posts did not have backgrounds in academia, but rather had ties to Republican national politics.
“The board wasn’t looking for reasonable change at a reasonable pace,” said Matthew Lepinski, a computer science professor who resigned from the board and then the school. “They weren’t concerned about what was broken because they were interested in making changes quickly.”
The reconstituted board voted to eliminate New College’s gender studies program, which one director called “more of an ideological movement” than an academic field.The school’s only full-time professor of gender studies stopwrote in his resignation letter that Florida is a state where “academics are dying.”
Gone are the gender-neutral bathrooms, hallway art that in some cases featured nudity, and student murals that were completed in February and expected to remain for several years. Student orientation leaders were required to remove Black Lives Matter and Pride pins from their polo shirts. This week’s student government election pitted returning students and new students supported by the newly established campus chapter of the conservative group Turning Point USA.
Dan DuPreez, a former New College admissions officer, said he is troubled by the tactics used to grow the freshman class, pointing to low freshman grade point averages and standardized test scores. It was lower than past freshman classes. He said a colleague showed him an admissions essay that was a screenshot of his cellphone notes, but it was “full of incorrect spelling and grammar, and essentially said, ‘I just want to play baseball.'” I remembered that.
“That person was accepted after that,” Dupre said.
Administrators said they had little time to recruit the large incoming class they wanted. Many top athletes have already gone on to other schools, and critics say New College has heavily recruited students from Christian schools. DeSantis said he wants New College to be modeled after Hillsdale College, a private Christian institution in Michigan.
Mariano Jimenez Jr., an athletic director and baseball coach at a private Christian high school, said the school hired academic counselors to keep players on track, as other schools routinely do. He said it had been introduced. These athletes will be held to high standards. ”
Several players declined to speak to reporters. The university declined a request to make the player available for an interview.
One person briefly interviewed, 20-year-old basketball player Tyron Smith, said he transferred from the University of South Florida in part because of New College’s academics. “Professors know your name,” he said.
Many of the athletes were assigned to apartment-style dormitories and replaced with upperclassmen, adding to the friction surrounding their arrival. Other dorms have been deemed unsafe due to mold, which Corcoran said should have been addressed earlier. Many students stayed in three hotels nearby.
Atticus Dixon, a 19-year-old religious studies student who ended up living at Hyatt Place, described the inconvenience of having to take a shuttle or hitchhike just to get to class. It’s late on campus. ”
There were other sources of uncertainty. Annie Dong, 21, a fourth-year art and psychology student, said the culture is no longer so positive and welcoming.
“The community has changed,” she said. “I feel anxious just being on campus.”
Parents and students reported that classes were canceled just before the start of the school year, but Corcoran denied the claims despite confusion from teachers. We have hired visiting faculty again this year.
“I was doing an internship in an organic chemistry lab,” said Olivia Pare, a 20-year-old third-year biology student who transferred to the school. “The professor I was working with was denied tenure, and that was the final straw for me.”
More than 30 students have transferred to Hampshire College, a private liberal arts school in Amherst, Massachusetts. suggested matching Tuition fees for new university students.
One of them, Libby Harrity, 20, was expelled from New College as part of a deal to have misdemeanor assault charges against her dropped. Her DeSantis-appointed trustee, Christopher Rufo, had accused her of spitting on DeSantis during her May campus protest. (Ms. Harrity denied her version of events.)
Harrity, New College’s quirky former mascot with a tattoo of an empty parenthesis representing a mathematical concept known as the null set, is grateful for Hampshire’s tuition, although housing and travel back home are more expensive. He said he is doing so. .
“I was hurt,” she said of leaving New College. “They came in and took everything that made it so great and appealing and stripped it away as much as possible.”
Curtis, an art and psychology student, has remained at New College, although she is considering dropping her psychology concentration. The dormitory she was scheduled to live in was closed, leaving her to compete for alternative housing on campus. She was one of her six students whose mural featured a sandhill crane. overcoated Without warning, she said, she was sent a heartbreaking message: “We don’t want your job here.”
She waited for the pink hair dye to fade and her mullet to grow out before returning to school. She said it was because she feared her administrators and new students would criticize her. She aims to complete her art course and graduate as soon as possible.