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New College students plan an alternative commencement with ex-Trump appointee speaking at graduation

A group of students, many holding protest signs, rally at New College of Florida
Cathy Carter
/
WUSF Public Media
New College students have held several rally's on the Sarasota campus to protest the school's conservative overhaul.

Dr. Scott Atlas was chosen by New College of Florida interim president Richard Corcoran to address seniors at a May 19 graduation ceremony in Sarasota.

Students at New College of Florida are planning their own graduation event after a conservative speaker with ties to former president Donald Trump and Governor Ron DeSantis was selected to give the college's commencement address.

Dr. Scott Atlas was chosen by New College of Florida interim president Richard Corcoran to address seniors at a May 19 graduation ceremony in Sarasota.

The radiologist was appointed as Trump's special coronavirus adviser in 2020.

He resigned after clashes with other public health leaders over his advocacy for herd immunity as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students say the current administration is made up of new hires, who have only been part of the community for a handful of months.

They say the additional graduation event on May 18 will give them a chance to celebrate on their own terms.

A GoFundMe account set up to help pay for the separate commencement had raised nearly $20,000 by Wednesday afternoon.

Atlas is a senior fellow at Stanford University and a fellow in the Academy for Science and Freedom at the Washington, D.C., campus of Hillsdale College, the small Michigan Christian school DeSantis has said he wants to model New College after.

Atlas's conservative ideology is in line with a month’s long process to change the culture at the small liberal arts college in Sarasota.

The overhaul began in January when DeSantis appointed six new conservative trustees to the college’s board. The trustees then fired the school’s president and appointedformer state education commissioner Richard Corcoran as interim.

In the span of just a few months, trustees fired the school’s director of diversity, equity, and inclusion and abolished the school’s small DEI office. They fired the school’s librarian and dean of academic engagement and denied tenure to five faculty members. They also hired a director of athletics, although the college currently offers only intramural sports.

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