New College of Florida students organize alternative graduation after DeSantis takeover

NCF students scheduled an alternative commencement ceremony in the wake of the university's decision to host Scott Atlas, former Trump advisor, as the scheduled commencement speaker.

​The alternative ceremony, framed as a protest of 'the hostile takeover of New College of Florida' via conservative-leaning DeSantis appointees to the school's board, is scheduled to be held today.

Graduating New College of Florida (NCF) students have scheduled an alternative commencement ceremony in the wake of Interim President Richard Corcoran’s announcement of the decision to host Dr. Scott Atlas, former Special Advisor to President Trump, as the scheduled commencement speaker. 

Dr. Atlas was a special COVID-19 advisor to Trump early in the pandemic, though his tenure was short-lived. He resigned in November of 2020.

The alternative ceremony, framed as a general protest of “the hostile takeover of New College of Florida” via conservative-leaning DeSantis appointees to the school’s board, is scheduled to be held today, a day before the official graduation hosts Dr. Atlas as the guest speaker.

Following Corcoran’s May 10 announcement, the graduating students organizing the event partnered with alumni groups Save New College and Novo Collegian Alliance and launched a GoFundMe page titled “[NEW] Commencement: On Our Terms.’’ As of the publication of this article, the GoFundMe has now raised over $122,000. 

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“The new administration that has spent the past four months attacking our students and community cannot, in good faith, celebrate our graduating students and their accomplishments,” the description on the fundraising page reads. They added that their goal was a graduation that focused on students “rather than an administration desperately trying to maintain normality and instill conformity.” 

The group announced yesterday that their new event will feature guest speaker Maya Wiley, a lawyer, civil rights activist, and President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

“⁦To the New College of FL graduating class of 2023, I am honored to be joining you to celebrate your academic achievements & your bravery! You speak your truth to power & fight for freedom to learn & [for] diversity. You’re the future!” Wiley wrote in a public Twitter post with an accompanying video Tuesday in anticipation of her speech. 

In the video, she went on to applaud the students for “pushing back for academic freedom” and said there is “nothing more important in our educational system than [forming] citizens ... who know that the project of liberal arts education is to know who you are [and to] have a voice.”

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Following the announcement of the alternative ceremony, Dr. Scott Atlas spoke to Campus Reform and said that he fears for both students and the country. 

“It is a great honor to share the graduation with the Class of 2023 at New College of Florida. What excites me the most about New College is its stated commitment to ‘free speech and civil discourse’. This is the most urgently needed change in America today – restoring both civil discourse and the free exchange of ideas. It’s impossible to learn critical thinking without hearing differing views – and critical thinking is THE most important lesson to learn in college. As a health policy scholar for over 15 years and as a professor at top universities for 30 years, I fear for our students and our country.  Without encouraging open discussion, we might never solve any future crisis,” Dr. Atlas told Campus Reform

New College of Florida also told Campus Reform that based on discussions with several students, “a majority plan to attend” the college’s official graduation on May 19 “and are looking forward to it.” 

Campus Reform contacted every university, organization, and individual mentioned. This article will be updated accordingly. 

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