At New College of Florida, students independently organized an alternative graduation ceremony, called "Commencement On Our Terms," to take a stand against a threat to their academic freedom by Governor Ron DeSantis. In this remarkable move, they invited Neil Gaiman, acclaimed author and Professor of the Arts at Bard, to serve as their commencement speaker.
Gaiman's three-minute-long recorded message to the graduating class offered a story about his late cousin, Holocaust survivor and educator Helen N. Fagin, who had a deep connection to the school. He ends with a powerful call to action for New College students to take a stand against the evils of genocide and dehumanization, "You must fight for what you believe to be right while never losing your sense of humor or your sense of proportion."
A New College alum explains the bigger story about what is happening at the school:
New College of Florida is a small liberal arts college in Sarasota. It has around 800 students, and probably less next year. It does not have grades, it instead has narrative evaluations. There are no required classes beyond what is legally required for Common Core. As an Honors College, everyone is required to do an undergraduate thesis and defend it in front of a Baccalaureate Committee. I studied Environmental Science and I was able to create my own major (known as an Area of Concentration). I even designed an Independent Study Project that went in-depth on cholera.
As for what is happening now, the simple answer is that Governor DeSantis appointed a bunch of conservatives to the Board of Trustees (or BoT). One of these is Chris Rufo, the guy behind the CRT scare. They have been trying to systematically tear down the college. This has included things like firing the president and trying to change the school's curriculum and entrance requirements, with a conservative evangelical Christian angle.
Also see: savenewcollege.com.