Educators preserve, shape future with 'ALT NEW COLLEGE'
Friday, September 29, 2023
The so-called conservative "hostile takeover" of a small, progressive liberal arts college in Florida is seeing some resistance from former students and faculty who've developed and launched Alt New College. The goal is preserving the traditional values it built as an online institution for academic freedom.
Claiming one-third of faculty have left or been forced out, Alt New College is bringing back some of those instructors to teach online, free from political interference.
"We're most particularly concerned with subjects that concern the history of Black Americans, the intersection of science and politics, the study of gender which includes women and other identities," said Mary Ruiz, a New College alum who has served on its board since 2019. "We feel it's a worthy subject to study since it includes more than half of humanity."
Ruiz was board chair at New College of Florida when she resigned and is now an organizer of Alt New College. Some free courses, tutorials and lectures are supported by donors.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been touting the success of New College of Florida and is critical of a recent civil rights probe from the U.S. Department of Education into whether the school excluded or discriminated against qualified students with disabilities, kept them out of certain programs or denied them financial aid.
Ruiz said the concept is powerful and has attracted global partners such as Bard College of New York, giving students the chance to earn credit for the online courses.
"The Open Society University Network is making its entire curriculum available online," she said. "In addition to the offering of Alt New College, Bard is offering credit."
The concept for the alternative college isn't new. Ruiz said the grassroots effort was inspired by Smolny Beyond Borders, which transitioned to an online platform in response to an authoritarian incident in Russia, and Black Mountain College, renowned for its innovative approaches in preserving its institutional history.
A listing of the free courses can be found at altnewcollege.org.
Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.
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