Eddie Speir, one of the six new board members appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, outlined his concerns and intentions for the institution’s future in a recent Substack post ahead of his first board meeting Jan. 31.
First orders of business in Speir’s long list of ideas include demoting New College president Dr. Patricia Okker and beginning the search for new leadership, as well as terminating all employee contracts and rehiring only those who fit the school’s “new financial and business model.”
Speir, co-founder of Bradenton’s faith-based Inspiration Academy, was appointed to New College’s board of trustees less than a month ago in a move by DeSantis to reinvent the 63-year-old Sarasota liberal arts institution with more conservative thinkers. Among the new additions to the 13-member board are conservative activist Christopher Rufo, senior fellow at a right-wing think tank Charles Kesler, and dean of Michigan’s conservative Hillsdale College Matthew Spalding.
New College started as a progressive private school known for Florida’s first open admissions policy, which committed the school to not discriminate based on race, creed, national origin or cultural status. It has since become the state’s premier public liberal arts institution, with a largely progressive lean held by students and faculty.
In an effort to transform the college, Speir also wants to terminate and replace the board’s general counsel, Chair Mary Ruiz, as well as discuss the removal of faculty tenure and create a curriculum review committee that reports to the board.
The curriculum review committee, he writes, will work to identify aspects of “wokeness” on campus. Speir says he wants to eliminate and actively fight against “dogmatic expressions” and the use of “woke pronouns.”
“One example of a dogmatic expression of wokeness is the assertion that America and its institutions are systemically racist and must be torn down,” Speir writes.
He also proposes the removal of specific media from covering board meetings.
“I move that we remove USA Today and its affiliates from the list of approved media outlets until an apology is received with a commitment from USA Today to adhere to its own policies.”
Many of his suggestions would rely on a constant involvement of the board of trustees in future leadership and curriculum changes made at the school.
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