Florida college board set to remove gender studies programme

New College of Florida trustee Christopher Rufo speaks to two people during a meeting.

A Florida college education board is reportedly set to abolish its Gender Studies programme, following a vote by trustees.

A 7-3 vote on Thursday (10 August) by members of the New College of Florida education board will ultimately mean the nearly 30-year-old programme will be eliminated from the curriculum in the future.

The Gender Studies programme, which began in 1995, includes several majors with eligible courses such as anthropology, biology and sociology.

Christopher Rufo, a Ron DeSantis-appointed trustee and right-wing activist, introduced the motion suddenly during the general meeting on Thursday, which fellow board member and student body president Grace Keenan deemed “inappropriate and a violation of Sunshine Law”.

In a post following the vote, Rufo wrote that New College, located in Sarasota, Florida, had become the first public university in America to roll back what he described as “the encroachment of queer theory and gender pseudoscience” in academia.

In a subsequent piece in City Journey, Rufo wrote that it was “sure to elicit a fierce response from left-wing critics” but described the move as “part of a broader transformation”.

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Florida governor Ron DeSantis appointed and a number of other reformers to the New College board of trustees,” he wrote. “He tasked us with a challenging mission – to revive classical liberal education and restore the founding mission of the college.”

DeSantis came under fire, along with New College, for hiring the new trustees in January. A DeSantis staffer reportedly said at the time that the decision was to turn the college into “a Hillsdale of the South”, referencing a private, conservative, Christian liberal arts college in Michigan.

Since then, further decisions to strip New College of its diversity and equality protections have garnered criticism.

During the meeting, Gender Studies program director and faculty representative board member Amy Reid condemned the “ongoing attacks” of the program by “current and past members of the board”.

Reid argued that abolishing the program, which she noted was an established discipline in several institutions, was directly contrary to the supposed mission that DeSantis had appointed the board members for.

“To say that it is not appropriate in the liberal arts flies in the face of the data,” she said.

The level of institutional changes made to New College has resulted in a “ridiculously high” proportion of the faculty leaving their positions, with 36 departures in a single year of a college with fewer than 100 full-time teachers, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The departures and changes in policy have left several students in danger of their degrees being affected, including student Alaska Miller, who told Tampa Bay Times that the lack of teachers in the faculty means it’s impossible for her to find classes that help her move forward with her degree.

“That means either I don’t graduate on time or I’d have to abandon my major,” Miller said.

PinkNews has approached the New College of Florida for comment.