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A group opposed to the conservative takeover at New College filed a federal lawsuit against the state

Gov.Ron DeSantis signed SB 266 into law on the campus of New College of Florida in Sarasota in May.
Cathy Carter
Gov.Ron DeSantis signed SB 266 into law on the campus of New College of Florida in Sarasota in May.

The Sarasota-based group says a higher education law passed by Florida legislators, amounts to academic censorship.

A group created to oppose the new conservative direction at New College of Florida is a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against the state.

NCF Freedom says a higher education law that Florida legislators recently passed amounts to academic censorship.

The group formed when several alumni and longtime supporters of New College came together within 24 hours of the January announcement that Gov. Ron DeSantis was appointing six conservatives to the New College of Florida Board of Trustees.

Along the way, they have protested thehiring of former Republican state speaker Richard Corcoran as the school's new president, the abolishment of the diversity, equity and inclusion office and most recently a move to eliminate the college's gender studies program.

Now, they are taking their mission to the courts, with a challenge to a new law that - among other things - limits discussion of certain topics at Florida's public colleges and universities.

Jono Miller, a retired New College professor, is the group's president.

"People are very passionate about New College," he said. “We're seeking justice because our students and faculty have been wronged. I don't think anyone in the state of Florida wants the state government telling them what they can and can't talk about."

The new law — SB 266 — directs the governing body for Florida's university system to periodically review academic programs. It also prohibits “theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States."

The suit asks the court to declare the law unconstitutional because it imposes restrictions on speech in violation of the First Amendment.

Specifically, it says the law threatens the existence of courses on gender studies, queer studies and race, among others.

Miller says it is rare for a state legislature to outlaw the teaching of thoughts, concepts and ideas.

"A lot of staff, faculty and students at New College are fearful,” he said about the law’s impact. “Fearful that they will lose their job, fearful that something they might say or do could cost the college funding because of the way the SB 266 was structured. This will be effecting teaching throughout the state university system."

Governor Ron DeSantis signed the law on the campus of New College in Sarasota in May.

The legal complaint is seeking a court order to block the law from being enforced.

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