On February 28, New College of Florida’s board of trustees ended diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs at the institution, scrapped racial quotas in hiring and admissions, and banned “diversity” statements.
The moves were met with applause from conservatives throughout the state, who have advocated for the governor’s education agenda in the face of backlash from Democrats and progressive activists.
Led by interim president Richard Corcoran, who served as Florida Commissioner of Education until 2022, the board of trustees indicated this was the first of many steps that would be taken to reshape New College of Florida.
As the board convened, nearly fifty people signed up to speak against the proposed measure. One was Rev. John Dorhauer, who serves as President of the United Church of Christ (UCC).
“The long arc of history will grind you into dust,” Dorhauer told the board of trustees, referencing a Martin Luther King Jr. quote. He added that students “will win this battle and you will be remembered for the sycophants you are.”
The February 28 public meeting of the board of trustees also appeared to attract some left-wing parents of New College of Florida students.
According to Christopher Rufo, a conservative activist and member of New College’s board of trustees appointed by Governor DeSantis, many of those objecting to the reforms seemed to be mothers of students at the institution.
“A huge number of the public commenters are the mothers of current students,” Rufo wrote on Twitter. “I would have been mortified if my mom came to my university dressed in a costume, screaming about ‘fascism.’ Bizarre development.”
The prohibition of DEI programs and racial considerations in admissions and hiring at New College is the latest step taken to combat “woke” ideology in Florida’s colleges and universities.
In recent weeks, opposition to the governor’s efforts has grown. On February 23, students at Florida State and other institutions of higher learning held a walkout to protest the DeSantis administration’s education policies.
But there was also plenty of support for ending New College of Florida’s diversity, equity and inclusion programs.
“This is the way,” notable constitutional law professor Ilya Shapiro said in response to the news. Others on social media joined Shapiro in praising New College of Florida’s board of trustees.
DeSantis allies have argued the quality of New College is on the decline. The institution currently has only 700 students enrolled, with a target of 1,200. It also has an acceptance rate of over 74 percent, which is among the highest in the state.
Christopher Rufo laid out why he believed changes were necessary at Tuesday’s meeting.
“The board has a mandate from the people of Florida who have appointed us through their elected representatives to make sure that we are embodying the most important principles, and DEI goes against those principles,” Rufo said.