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New College of Florida alumni and supporters launch online learning platform as alternative to conservative makeover

Armed with homemade signs, hundreds of New College students, parents, and concerned community members rallied on Feb. 28, 2023 before a Board of Trustees meeting convened by a new conservative majority.
Daylina Miller
/
WUSF Public Media
Armed with homemade signs, hundreds of New College students, parents, and concerned community members rallied on Feb. 28, 2023 before the Board of Trustees meeting.

The New College of Florida community has continued to push back against Gov. Ron DeSantis' overhaul of the institution.

New College of Florida alumni and supporters have launched an online learning platform called Alt New College.

Organizers say the project will feature free and subsidized lectures and courses in subjects that members of the college's new leadership have pulled back on.

The New College of Florida community has continued to push back against Gov. Ron DeSantis' overhaul of the institution.

Alt New College aims to provide students access to certain subjects that many conservatives call 'woke ideology.'

In the past year, the Sarasota school closed its diversity office and eliminated courses in gender studies and other subjects.

The inaugural online lecture called “The Authoritarian Assault on Gender Studies," drew more than 500 viewers.

The platform's spokesperson, Mary Ruiz, a former New College board chair, says Alt New College is for anyone interested in civic engagement.

"If a democracy doesn't have freedom in education, it will not have freedom anywhere,” she said. “I think that this ability for people to freely pursue study without censorship or suppression is at the heart and soul of what a free society looks like."

Ruiz says the online venture will include lectures from alumni who now teach at schools like Harvard and the University of California.

"When you talk to New College people, you will hear, "it is so dear to us, and we will not give it up," she said. “It transforms the people who go to it, and the people who graduated from it, transform the world."

Ruiz said the initial focus will be on topics like race, gender, and academic freedom.

Alt New College’s Fall programming also includes talks by author Neil Gaiman, civil rights leader Maya Wiley and Jonathan Friedman of free speech advocacy group, PEN America.

As a reporter, my goal is to tell a story that moves you in some way. To me, the best way to do that begins with listening. Talking to people about their lives and the issues they care about is my favorite part of the job.
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