New College of Florida students, parents, faculty and alumni are launching an online education platform aimed at preserving the spirit of the university, a public liberal arts college previously known for its flexible academic pathways and intellectual rigor. The platform, known as Alt New College, will offer lectures and for-credit courses, taught by both former New College professors and big-name artists, scholars and activists.
“Over time, we hope to build an online institute that helps incubate strategies and share resources to help protect other communities facing similar attacks,” the Alt New College website reads. “What is happening at New College of Florida is part of a national campaign to overtake public education and subvert a fundamental pillar of democracy.”
The project comes in response to Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s efforts to restructure the college, in part by appointing a conservative slate of trustees to the board. Since January, the college has dismantled its gender studies major, lost about a third of the faculty and moved to replace the college’s previous independent education model with a “classical liberal arts” core curriculum.
Alt New College’s initial offerings will be delivered in partnership with Bard College, a liberal arts institution in New York, and Open Society University Network, a network founded by Bard and Central European University dedicated to educational access. Courses will focus on “subjects that are under assault in Florida, including race, gender, the scientific method, and academic freedom,” according to a Bard press release. In addition, OSUN will make its online course catalog available to current and former New College students and faculty.
The platform’s inaugural event will be a panel featuring Masha Gessen, a Russian American journalist and LGBTQ+ rights activist who currently serves as a distinguished visiting writer at Bard, and Judith Butler, a gender theorist best known for the 1990 book Gender Trouble. Other lectures currently on the docket include a four-part writing course taught by Neil Gaiman, an acclaimed English author and Bard professor, and a panel on youth civic engagement featuring activist David Hogg, a survivor of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Alt New College’s website states that courses will continue to be added, and “we are planning more robust accredited courses over time.”