Anatomy of a Political Takeover at Florida Public College

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has targeted a tiny public liberal arts college on the Sarasota Bay shore as the site of his war on “Woke.”

The governor and his allies say New College of Florida, known as a progressive school with a prominent LGBTQ+ community, should indoctrinate students with leftist ideology and transform it into a more conservative institution.

A top-down restructuring is underway at New College, where DeSantis allies are conducting what students and faculty are calling a “hostile takeover” and a political assault on their academic freedom.

Here’s the anatomy of the takeover at New College so far:

Jan. 6 Gov. Ron DeSantis appoints six new members to New College’s 13-member board of trustees, filling the board with Republican allies and insiders: -Christopher Rufo, conservative activist, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and architect of the right-wing outrage over critical Racial Theory – Jason “Eddie” Speir, co-founder and director of a Christian school in Bradenton, Florida – Matthew Spalding, professor and dean at the conservative Hillsdale College; Senior Fellow at Claremont Institute, a right-wing think tank – Charles Kesler, senior fellow at Claremont Institute and professor at Claremont McKenna College – Mark Bauerlein, retired English professor at Emory University and vocal opponent of diversity, equity and inclusion programs -Debra Jenks, a Palm Beach attorney and the only new fiduciary to attend New College

January 26 Florida’s Board of Governors appoints seventh new trustee, Ryan Anderson, president of the Ethic and Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank.

Jan. 31 – At first meeting with new trustees, board votes to fire New College President Patricia Okker. Board announces plans to appoint new interim president Richard Corcoran, a former Republican speaker of the Florida State House and DeSantis’ first commissioner of education. They award Corcoran a base salary of $699,000, more than double Okker’s salary. -Board also announces plans to hire a new general counsel, Bill Galvano, an attorney and former president of the Florida GOP Senate.

28 Feb Second Meeting of New Trustees. Board votes to eliminate New College’s Office of Outreach and Inclusive Excellence as part of plans to eliminate spending on diversity and equity programs. New trustee Rufo tells the meeting that DEI programs “restrict academic freedom and diminish the rigor of science” because they “treat people differently because of their skin color or other innate identities.”

March 3 New President Corcoran’s first personnel move is to fire Chief Diversity Officer Yoleidy Rosario-Hernandez, who identifies as a transgender person of color.

March 23 New College announces that Provost Suzanne Sherman, who has publicly clashed with new trustees, has “resigned” and is being replaced by an interim provost.

Sydney Gruters, a former GOP congressional adviser, has been appointed executive director of the New College of Florida Foundation. She is married to State Senator Joe Gruters, former chairman of the Florida Republican Party.

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