Trustees for the New College of Florida have voted to end a 28-year-old gender studies program.
Christopher Rufo, a conservative activist and Manhattan Institute scholar appointed to New College’s board of trustees by Gov. Ron DeSantis, introduced the motion to direct the school’s president to eliminate the gender studies program.
The board voted 7-3 in favor of the motion at a meeting Thursday.
Rufo said during the meeting that the gender studies program is “wildly contradictory” to the board’s mission to advance a classical liberal arts education at the Sarasota college, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
“Removal of gender studies as an area of concentration at New College is fully in accord with its strategic mission to be the state of Florida’s liberal arts honors college,” said board member Matthew Spalding, a Hillsdale College professor and dean.
“Not only does gender studies fall well outside this focus,” Spalding said, “but its ideologically driven and tendentious character render it more a movement of cultural politics than an academic discipline. Any substantial topic taken up in gender studies may be found thoroughly treated in the ordinary academic disciplines such as history, psychology, or biology.”
Spalding previously oversaw programs on American principles and political thought at The Heritage Foundation, parent organization of The Daily Signal.
The New School’s board voted in February to eliminate its diversity, equity, and inclusion office in February, which some observers call a testament to the school’s rapid return to focusing on a classical liberal arts education.
The New College of Florida’s gender studies program, established in 1995, included courses such as Women’s and Feminist Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Queer and Trans Studies, and Masculinity Studies.
The gender studies program “intersects with interdisciplinary fields including Cultural, Ethnic, and Africana Studies,” according to a school webpage about it.
DeSantis, a Republican candidate for the presidency, has touted the New College as a way to advance conservative principles and in January named six conservatives to the school’s 12 member board of trustees.
The governor has said he aims to shape the state’s only liberal arts school to become an example of a traditional, conservative education.
Disgruntled students protested Rufo’s visit to the New College in May, and one allegedly spat on the trustee. The student was charged with battery, a first-degree misdemeanor, but on Thursday came to an agreement with the school in which she will withdraw from the school and won’t be prosecuted.
Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz said that he hopes the new direction will transform the New College of Florida into a sort of “Hillsdale of the South.”
Hillsdale College, in Michigan, is a celebrated liberal arts college with a conservative approach.
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