Florida College Hit With Rare Sanction After DeSantis’ ‘Egregious’ Takeover

New College of Florida
New College of Florida

New College of Florida, the school infamously overhauled by Gov. Ron DeSantis and his pals, was slapped with a rare sanction by a national faculty group Monday for “egregious and extensive” standards violations during its conservative takeover last year.

The decision to sanction came after a vote by the American Association of University Professors, which has placed just 12 other universities on its sanctioned list over the last three decades.

The nonprofit, which serves as a resource to professors and fights for their wellbeing, wrote in a report that its decision stemmed from New College’s “unprecedented politically motivated takeover” that was a “complete departure from shared governance.”

That takeover was orchestrated by DeSantis who, while performing near-daily political stunts leading up to his failed presidential bid, had the tiny liberal arts school completely overhauled in a matter of months.

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DeSantis appointed six new members to the school’s board of trustees in January 2023, which quickly got to work at his behest.

One of the new board’s first points of order was to oust its president and hire a pal of DeSantis’ to replace him at double the position’s previous annual salary. Soon after, the board eliminated gender studies as a major. DeSantis praised the moves as necessary to save the school from ruin, even though it regularly pumped out Fulbright scholars despite having an enrollment well below 1,000.

The association said Monday these changes were done entirely “without meaningful faculty involvement and denied academic due process to multiple faculty members during their tenure applications and renewals.”

A news release about the sanction lambasted the new leadership at New College, located in Southwest Florida, saying it may have damaged its reputation for the foreseeable future.

“These actions have seriously impaired, if not irreparably damaged, the collective and individual functions of the New College faculty,” the release said.

The association said it publicly sanctions schools “for the purpose of informing Association members, the profession at large, and the public that unsatisfactory conditions of academic government exist at the institutions in question.”

It also announced sanctions against Spartanburg Community College in South Carolina. However, the association’s report on Spartanburg was far less substantial than its report for New College, which spanned 32 pages and included subheads about the university’s takeover, its “assault on DEI,” and its “assault on LGBTQ rights.”

LeRoy Pernell, a Florida A&M Law professor, told the association that the situation at New College has many Florida professors looking to take jobs outside the state.

“What we are witnessing in Florida is an intellectual reign of terror,” he said. “There is a tremendous sense of dread right now, not just among faculty; it’s tangible among students and staff as well. People are intellectually and physically scared. We are being named an enemy of the state.”

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In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, a New College spokesperson said the American Association of University Professors “lacks the authority” to issue sanctions and called the announcement “a headline grab.”

“Their persistent targeting of New College for any change they disagree with is clear evidence that New College is at the forefront of reforming higher education,” the statement said.

Florida has been controversially overhauling education at all levels under DeSantis. That’s included the passage of the infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill in 2022, the banning of hundreds of books—including some about LGBTQ people and even Jackie Robinson—and a public battle with the College Board over the contents of its AP African American History class.

Among the most egregious policy changes has been the welcoming of PragerU content into Florida classrooms, as well as new U.S. history curriculum that is teaching Florida children that slavery brought “personal benefit” to Black people in the South.

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