POLITICS

New board member says his assignment is 'to lead New College of Florida out of wokeness'

Zac Anderson
Sarasota Herald-Tribune
New College of Florida

Recently appointed to the New College of Florida board by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Christian school founder Eddie Speir is echoing the governor's war on "woke" in describing his plans for the Sarasota liberal arts college.

Speir outlined how he's approaching his New College position in a recent Substack post that begins by declaring "we have a mandate" and goes on to note that DeSantis won reelection by more than 19 percentage points.

"The taxpayers of Florida have spoken clearly. Do we understand the assignment?" Speir wrote. "As I see it, we as trustees, are to lead New College of Florida out of wokeness and into its mission."

Speir then details his views on wokeness.

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“I would like to propose that we define wokeness as a religion," he writes. "We can clearly see anti-racism as the new racism. In like manner anti-religion is the new religion.”

An example of alleged wokeness that Speir opposes: What he described as "the demand that woke pronouns are used." He also criticizes athletes kneeling at sporting events during the national anthem, which became common after George Floyd's murder as a way to express concerns about racism and police brutality.

"While others may claim that this practice is about awareness," Speir writes of athletes taking a knee, "I believe that most people in the higher ranks of this religion would see the connection of this practice as virtue signaling connected to Barack Obama’s pastor Jeremiah Wright when he famously stated, ‘no, not God bless America, but God Damn America!’”

Speir writes that he not only wants to end what he views at woke practices at New College, but "actively" fight against them and enact curriculum "that expresses the dangers of these aspects and equips students to fight against them in defense of Florida’s constitution."

Speir's writing indicates an aggressive approach to overhauling New College that aligns with another new board member, conservative activist Christopher Rufo, who told the New York Times that the college's academic offerings “are going to look very different in the next 120 days.”

Rufo is calling for "a top-down restructuring" and wants to “design a new core curriculum from scratch.”

Other New College board members appointed by DeSantis, Hillsdale College Dean Matthew Spalding and former Emory University professor Mark Bauerlein, have been more measured in their public comments.

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Both Spalding and Bauerlein recently were interviewed by the Herald-Tribune. Spalding said "this is not about turning New College into something it is not." Bauerlein said “I do believe what we see will be a lot less controversial than we’re hearing now."

The Herald-Tribune previously reported about Speir's Twitter feed, which includes skeptical comments about climate change and raises concerns about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, and about his attempt to open New College's next board meeting with a prayer, which was rejected by college officials.

Rufo and Speir are scheduled to meet with New College faculty and students Wednesday.