New College of Florida students attend ‘alternative commencement’

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — Hundreds of New College of Florida students, family members and friends gathered at an off-campus art gallery Thursday evening for an “alternative commencement” in defiance of state officials working to change the character of the traditionally progressive school.

The ceremony preceded Friday’s official graduation on the tiny public liberal arts college’s Sarasota campus, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The college, which had less than 700 students enrolled this year, has become the focal point of Gov. Ron DeSantis to rid higher education in the state of what the Republican governor calls left-leaning “woke” indoctrination on campuses ahead of his expected presidential candidacy. Sarasota is located about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Tampa.

The governor and his allies say New College, a progressive school with a prominent LGBTQ+ community, is indoctrinating students with leftist ideology and should be revamped into a more conservative institution.

New College became nationally known this year after the governor appointed a group of conservatives to its board of trustees. Among the DeSantis appointees’ first moves was to eliminate the New College’s diversity, equity and inclusion office. Earlier this week, DeSantis signed a bill into law at the school that blocks public colleges from using federal or state funding on diversity programs.

The takeover has led to pushback among students at New College, long known for its progressive thought and creative course offerings that don’t use traditional grades.

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