New College of Florida is ground zero in the battle for the future of American higher education. For decades, the liberal arts school in the city of Sarasota was a failed institution by virtually all measures. Yet under new leadership with a commitment to diversity of thought, intellectual freedom, and rigorous academic standards, it has swiftly emerged as a thriving hub of learning.
This achievement represents an existential threat to activists who believe public colleges and universities should be, not forums for learning, but taxpayer-funded indoctrination centers. That is why they were so quick to respond.
‘Misgendering’ Allegation Sparks Complaint
Recently, a group of alumni, faculty, and students filed a complaint with the Department of Education. The complaint alleges New College has created a hostile environment by committing such wrongs as “misgendering” an employee who goes by the pronouns “ze” and “zir” and moving students out of mold-riddled dorms into high-quality hotels.
Make no mistake, the goal here is to weaponize the department’s Office of Civil Rights and return power to those who nearly destroyed New College via a noxious combination of radical ideology and stunning administrative ineptitude.
The school’s leadership allowed the abandonment of adherence to liberal arts education, prioritizing far-left activism over academic integrity and student results. As a result, New College had one of the worst retention rates in Florida’s state university system. Test scores for incoming classes declined. Surveys showed a toxic student culture. The school’s foundation lost money. New College was in free fall.
New College continued to squander every ounce of grace it received. Back in 2017 and 2018, the Florida legislature gave the school more than $9 million to raise enrollment from approximately 850 to 1,200 by 2022. Instead, enrollment plummeted to about 600.
New College Corrects Course
Today, new student enrollment is skyrocketing. Campus safety has dramatically improved. Food options have multiplied and increased in quality. After a commissioned mold study, the college is in the process of significantly improving student housing. A sports program has been founded, which has already had a vibrant impact on student life. And all this happened while focusing on academics.
Ironically, the group filing the complaint, which of course professes to be all about diversity, is scoffing at the varied composition of the new student body. New College had limited minority enrollments before the school’s new leadership. Since then, black enrollment has increased by about 300 percent and Hispanic enrollment by approximately 90 percent. When the left pushes for “diversity,” it seeks a mass of people with different skin colors all chanting the same dogmas in unison.
Partisan news media have also taken aim at New College’s success. In one instance, The New York Times published an opinion piece that claimed the sports program was “masculinizing a place.” As a father of three daughters, I proudly attest that women play sports, too.
In another instance, the Tampa Bay Times spent six months on a story, told one side, got facts wrong, and even spelled my name incorrectly. The innuendo and editorializing continue. But we will not be deterred.
A Model For Liberal Arts Revival
The dramatic turnaround is due to the decisive leadership of Gov. Ron DeSantis, and, in particular, his appointments to New College’s board of trustees. The school’s return to classical liberal arts provides a deeply appealing alternative for colleges and universities, not just in Florida, but across the entire nation.
The complaint against New College reveals that its filers are concerned not about improving student achievement but retaining their raw power to indoctrinate. That’s why New College matters so much. Because how we educate the next generation will determine the future, specifically whether America will have the courage and aptitude to defend its foundation.