The Culture War Goes to College

The Culture War Goes to College

By The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX

From book bans to uproar over critical race theory, American classrooms have been on the front lines of the culture war. And there’s one state that’s leading the charge.

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has championed several laws affecting education, from prohibitions on classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity to blocks on funding for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at state colleges. He’s also targeted one the state’s most liberal and academically rigorous institutions: New College of Florida.

In January, DeSantis’ chief of staff told National Review, “It is our hope that New College of Florida will become Florida’s classical college, more along the lines of a Hillsdale of the South.” The comment sparked widespread controversy because Hillsdale College is a private Christian school in Michigan, and New College is the state’s public honors college.

That same month, DeSantis appointed multiple new trustees to the board, who began seizing control of New College almost immediately. In their first meeting, trustees ousted the college’s president and legal counsel and selected a new board chair, a DeSantis appointee. And they set in motion a plan to terminate the school’s diversity officer.

Since then, a pitched battle has been playing out, with DeSantis and his appointees on one side and students and faculty on the other. In this episode of Reveal, we partner with freelance reporter and filmmaker Sam Greenspan, who is a graduate of New College, to examine the changes taking place there. Greenspan follows journalists at the Catalyst, the student newspaper, as they cover the rapid-fire changes that are throwing the future of the college into uncertainty. 

To close the show, host Al Letson interviews Democratic Florida Rep. Angie Nixon about her opposition to many of the governor’s recent policies and the effects she thinks they’ll have on students and educators in the state.

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