New College senior blasts Ron DeSantis' campaign to give a liberal arts 'sanctuary' a MAGA makeover
Many of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' critics on the right — a combination of libertarians and Never Trump conservatives — have argued that instead of wanting to debate liberals and progressives, he wants to bully them into silence. And they point to the far-right Republican governor's education policies as a prime example. From Florida's widely criticized "Don't Gay Say" law to his campaign to abolish an advance-placement course on African-American history from public high schools, DeSantis' critics on both the left and the right see him as an authoritarian who has zero tolerance for non-MAGA viewpoints in education.
DeSantis has not only gone after K-12 schools. He has also made a concerted effort to give the New College of Florida, a liberal arts institution in Sarasota, a MAGA makeover by installing his cronies.
In an op-ed published by CNN’s website on March 28, Sophia Brown — a New College senior and editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper The Catalyst — discusses her reasons for choosing to study there and is highly critical of DeSantis' efforts to radically change it.
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"The freedoms of students in Florida have long been under fire during Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration, with his book banning, attacks on critical race theory and the 'Don’t Say Gay bill,'" Brown explains. "But I still wasn't entirely prepared for his attacks on academic freedom at New College of Florida, the liberal arts college in Sarasota, where I've been a student for the past four years. As bad as things got in Florida, I and many of my classmates thought that surely, his culture war policies wouldn't reach our school, which has been something of a bubble of sanity and safety for queer students like me, as well as my transgender and BIPOC classmates."
Brown observes that DeSantis "is continuing to plow ahead with his takeover of New College," where he has "installed a new board of trustees and a new interim president" and "continues to force his conservative values on a place where they're not wanted."
"Many students who have come to think of New College as a sanctuary now feel as though they are no longer welcome here," the Catalyst editor laments. "Students feel as if they're walking on eggshells — in part because the new conservative leadership has been incredibly vague about the next changes they will try to ram through."
Brown stresses that as an "LGBTQ student" at the New College, she hasn't had to "leave my identity at the door in order to have the education I deserve." But she fears that New College's days as a gay-friendly campus may be coming to an end.
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"I'm now a senior and in my final weeks as a student at New College," Brown notes. "It's been a great time…. But who knows how much longer it will be allowed to continue? The New College we knew, one of my friends recently said to me, is dead. I hope she's wrong."
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Read Sophia Brown's full op-ed for CNN at this link.
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