Posted on March 5, 2023

Emotional Meeting Ends With DeSantis’ New College of Florida Board Abolishing Diversity Office

Zac Anderson, USA Today, March 2, 2023

New College of Florida’s Board of Trustees abolished the office handling diversity, equity and inclusion programs during a contentious and emotional meeting Tuesday that included testimony from students worried that a board reshaped by Gov. Ron DeSantis is making the school unwelcoming to minorities.

DeSantis appointed six members to New College’s board on Jan. 6 in an effort to transform the school, putting the small Sarasota institution at the center of the GOP’s nationwide pushback on education policies aimed at supporting historically marginalized groups, including racial minorities and LGBTQ individuals.

DeSantis has emerged as a key national figure in this debate after he pushed through legislation governing how K-12 schools discuss race and gender identity and recently prohibited an Advanced Placement course in African American studies, which caused an uproar. The governor is now taking aim at university programs.

Eliminating diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives − which have become a major flashpoint for conservatives and a target of DeSantis throughout Florida’s public university system − is among the first substantive actions by New College’s revamped board, which also fired the former president last month and hired DeSantis ally Richard Corcoran as interim president. Corcoran’s first board meeting was Tuesday.


Among DeSantis’ New College board appointees is prominent conservative activist Christopher Rufo, who pushed at his first meeting on Jan. 31 to abolish diversity programs.


Rufo conceded that DEI isn’t as deeply embedded in the college’s practices as he expected, but said it was still important to remove it on “principle.” Rufo and Trustee Matthew Spalding both suggested it is discriminatory to take race into account when setting the college’s priorities.

“It treats people differently on the basis of their skin color,” Rufo said.


The majority of trustees voted to have Corcoran move forward with eliminating the Office of Outreach and Inclusive Excellence, which handles DEI programs. The Office’s four employees will be offered other jobs.

Trustees also voted to eliminate the diversity statement when hiring faculty and to direct Corcoran to consider adopting a prohibition on diversity training for employees.

Additionally, the board voted to have Corcoran create a school policy that prohibits spending money on any DEI efforts.

Under the new regulation, DEI will be defined to include “any effort to manipulate or otherwise influence the composition of the faculty or student body with reference to race, sex, color, or ethnicity.”

The definition of DEI also would include: “Any effort to promote as the official position of the administration, the college, or any administrative unit thereof, a particular, widely contested opinion referencing unconscious or implicit bias, cultural appropriation, allyship, transgender ideology, microaggressions, group marginalization, anti-racism, systemic oppression, social justice, intersectionality, neo-pronouns, heteronormativity, disparate impact, gender theory, racial or sexual privilege, or any related formulation of these concepts.”

The rollback of New College’s diversity programs came at the end of a 3-1/2-hour meeting that featured emotional testimony for students, parents and others. About 200 people attended the meeting.


About 300 people gathered in front of the Hamilton Center on New College’s Sarasota campus to again criticize DeSantis’ conservative takeover of the school and vow continued resistance. {snip}


Lianna Paton, a minority student in her first year at New College, said targeting DEI programs is an attempt to suppress and “erase students of color.”

“You do not get to say diversity is divisive when its very existence is what makes communities like my own feel welcome and safe,” Paton said.

Members of the crowd held up signs saying “Black history is American history” and “Jesus was/is woke.”


Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer leads the church that helped found New College as a private school in 1960 before it became part of the state university system. He said he is outraged by what DeSantis is doing to the school.


Dorhauer also spoke at the board meeting {snip}

“The long arc of history will grind you into dust and… you will be remembered for the sycophants that you are,” he said. {snip}