Civil rights leader and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Maya Wiley will be the keynote speaker at the alternative graduation event on Thursday, May 18.
SARASOTA — Students from New College of Florida are preparing for an alternative commencement ceremony for this year’s graduating class amid the controversial conservative transformation of Florida’s only public liberal arts honors college launched by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The student-led “Commencement On Our Terms” event Thursday will serve as a supplemental commencement experience for this year’s New College graduates. The graduates will celebrate in a private gathering at an undisclosed location in downtown Sarasota ahead of the school’s traditional graduation, which is slated for the following evening on May 19.
The alternative graduation was organized by New College seniors, with support from the alumni-run Novo Collegian Alliance, which wanted to provide an opportunity for graduates to celebrate their accomplishments while supporting one another following the close of an unusual and trying semester. “Part of this event is to remind them that they are supported, the entire community is behind them supporting them,” Myranda Pierce, a New College alum who graduated in 2010, said.
Interim New College of Florida President Richard Corcoran announced that Dr. Scott Atlas will be the commencement speaker for the regular graduation ceremony on Friday at the Ringling Mansion. Atlas, a radiologist, is the Robert Wesson Senior Fellow in health policy at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. He was a controversial figure in former President Donald Trump’s administration, serving as a special White House advisor during the COVID-19 pandemic. His views often contradicted the prevailing medical advice on how to combat COVID.
Organizers of the New College of Florida graduating Class of 2023 student-led “Commencement On Our Terms” have announced civil rights leader and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Maya Wiley as the keynote speaker at the alternative graduation event on Thursday, May 18.
New College graduating seniors and Nova Alliance alumni will host Wiley during the private graduation ceremony offered to this year’s New College graduates. Wiley, a nationally known civil rights activist, attorney and professor, will celebrate New College students and recognize the graduates’ pursuit of academic freedom, knowledge, and diversity, the sponsors said.
Civil Rights Leader to Deliver Keynote at New College Alternative Graduation
New College students and many alumni have opposed the DeSantis appointed board at every turn but have been unable to slow down the significant changes taking shape on campus.
One of board’s initial moves was ousting the school’s president and replacing her with former Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who is earning a $699,000 annual salary. Since then, the DeSantis trustees have dismantled diversity, equity and inclusion programs at New College, denied tenure to five faculty members, a move that spurred one trustee — the faculty representative — to quit the board on the spot and later resign as a professor, and fired the school librarian, who said the termination seemed like a “deliberate and targeted attack on our students.”
“The students at the New College of Florida have achieved amazing academic success in the face of abhorrent challenges,” Wiley said in a statement. “They endured COVID and the politicization of their education. They have advocated tirelessly for the freedom to learn free of politics, for the freedom to be who they are, and for the freedom to fight for a campus community that embraces all who work and learn in it.”