When a committee of the New College of Florida Board of Trustees met in July, a whopping 36 faculty members had already left since Florida Governor Ron DeSantis initiated a conservative restructuring of the institution in January. That number has subsequently grown to more than 40, Amy Reid, the sole faculty member on the board, told Inside Higher Ed.
Now, as students prepare for the fall semester, the impact of the faculty exodus is becoming apparent: many classes won’t be offered at New College this term.
The course catalogue was already sparse when students first began looking at classes last spring. Dani Delaney, the mother of one former New College student who is transferring to Hampshire College in Massachusetts—which guaranteed admission to all New College students in good standing—said her son could only find two classes that counted toward his “area of concentration” (which is what New College calls majors). When he contacted the institution about the lack of relevant courses, she said, he was told the course catalogue was “in flux” and to “choose something else.”
As of July, New College had 328 incoming students, a record for the school. Of the group, 115 are athletes, and 70 were recruited to play baseball, even though, as Walker reported, New College has no real sports facilities and has yet to be accepted into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. By comparison, the University of Florida’s far more established baseball team has 37 student-athletes.
The accommodations offered to New College’s new student-athletes will be better than those provided to many existing students. Walker reported that the incoming class will be housed in newer, apartment-style dorms that in the past were reserved for upperclass students. Returning students are being moved to older, more decrepit buildings, two of which recently were declared uninhabitable because of a mold problem. (New College has said it won’t put students in mold-affected rooms.)
Some new students may well end up immersing themselves in the great works of the Western canon. But last week, New College’s interim president, Richard Corcoran, a longtime Republican politician who served as DeSantis’s education commissioner, sent a memo to faculty members, proposing new majors in finance, communications and sports psychology, “which will appeal to many of our newly admitted athletes.” As Amy Reid, a New College professor of French who directs the gender studies department, said when I spoke to her last weekend, “Tell me how sports psychology, finance and communications fits with a classical liberal arts model.”