College Hall at the New College of Florida in Sarasota. Credit: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory
Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, who weighed in Tuesday on the New College of Florida shakeup, said the state’s main public liberal arts college, has “lost its way.”
That’s why Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed a half dozen Board of Trustees members for the college, many of whom are conservative-leaning appointments. New College, in Sarasota, is largely considered progressive and alternative in Florida’s higher education sphere.
At a Tuesday Board of Governor’s meeting at Florida International University in Miami, Nuñez’s alma mater, she told the board members:
“New College’s mission was to be the liberal arts honors college of the state of Florida,” Nuñez said. “And it is our opinion that the college had lost its way, had lost its mission, and it’s our intention to make sure that we reign it back from what we’ve seen.”
She added: “And it’s not just enough to say it’s lost its mission. When you look at the metrics and I know that’s something that you all look at very clearly it had dropped to dead last as it relates to return on investment.”
Nuñez did not elaborate about the metrics. But the Board of Governors does keep data on the performance of universities.
Rankings for U.S. News and World Report, places New College as 76 in the category of National Liberal Arts colleges. That figure is a tie for several other colleges in that category. Overall, the analysis is for 210 National Liberal Arts colleges.
Included in DeSantis’ appointments for New College is conservative activist Christopher Rufo, who is largely credited for spearheading the campaign against critical race theory as a talking point for Republicans, according to the New York Times.
Another appointee is Matthew Spalding, a dean at the very conservative and private Hillsdale College in Michigan. Members of DeSantis’s team have said that through the appointments, that they intend to shape New College into the “Hillsdale of the South.”
Nuñez started the Tuesday Board of Education meeting claiming that an ambiguous threat was seeping into Florida’s university system, but she did not explicitly say what.
“But what I’ve seen, these new threats that are creeping and are taking hold are things that we need to face. And I believe that one of the biggest threats that’s infiltrating our universities is a permeating culture — in which one might call it ‘woke culture’ one might call it ‘woke ideology’ one might call it ‘identity politics,'” Nuñez told the Board of Governors.
“And this can take many forms, many names — and we don’t need to get into all the names, certainly we can talk about it ad nauseam, but I do believe that some of these issues that are taking hold are — the policies that they advocate — are policies based on hate and based on indoctrination. And so while these words at one point maybe had noble intentions, I believe that they’ve been co-opted and that they’re using this to create a political front door to indoctrinating our children.
“And I think we have to have an express purpose that we are not here to advance an agenda. We are here to educate our children. And in order to do that I don’t think we can hold education hostage.”
She later referenced a joint statement made by the presidents of community colleges that stated they support the DeSantis administration’s concerns on diversity, equity and inclusion, critical race theory or other academic lenses on college campuses.
So far, a similar joint statement from the university presidents has not yet been announced. The Board of Governors meeting will continue through Wednesday afternoon.
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