Tuesday's letters: Conservative Christian ideology bad fit for New College

Supporters of New College of Florida protest outside the Sarasota County Administration Building on Jan. 12, before a regular meeting of the Sarasota legislative delegation.
Supporters of New College of Florida protest outside the Sarasota County Administration Building on Jan. 12, before a regular meeting of the Sarasota legislative delegation.

Foisting right-wingers on New College

One year ago, the governor of Tennessee announced a partnership with Hillsdale College, in Michigan, to build up to 100 affiliated charter schools in the state.

The school boards of every affected county voted to reject Hillsdale, a conservative Christian school known for disrespecting public school teachers. The partnership was withdrawn.

More:New College supporters criticize transformation plan

Editorial:Now's the time to protect college legacy

Now our governor is embracing the anti-intellectual carpetbaggers who were thrown out of Tennessee. He has appointed a Hillsdale professor and five other conservatives to the board of trustees at New College of Florida.

Hillsdale students cannot receive student loans because the college will not follow federal guidelines on discrimination and responding to sexual assaults in campus.

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Some will recall that Hillsdale was hired in 2022 to hold retraining seminars for Florida civics teachers, with a curriculum that included the end of separation of church and state and the little-known “fact” that slavery wasn’t so bad after all. Hillsdale faculty lecture on topics like “Black privilege” and “racial hysteria.”

It is understood that Gov. Ron DeSantis has no follow-through, and his headline-grabbing actions often fizzle but using the New College board to insert a fringe group into a well-respected public school will cause real harm beyond the obvious harm to students and their families.Mike Weddle, Venice

Sustain founder’s legacy of excellence

Newly appointed board members seek to transform New College − the school I graduated from and which my father, Douglas Berggren, helped found − in a way that turns its mission upside down.

Gov. Ron DeSantis plans to abolish diversity, equity and inclusion, and his “classical liberal arts model” is blatantly political.

Opinion:New College founder would be appalled

New College of Florida has endured because it has always strived for excellence and relevance, instead of conforming to specific ideologies.  Excellence has meant knowing one’s discipline rigorously while questioning its fundamentals and the nature of academia.

Students are encouraged to cross academic areas and commit to their education through contracts they help design. This makes them excellent problem solvers and innovators and has led to New College’s consistently high rankings nationwide.

New College does not espouse indoctrination. Rather, freedom of thought is encouraged, and the college prides itself on creating a safe environment to respectfully exchange ideas.

My father once noted that New College attracts a highly diverse student body, giving them the opportunity to learn how to work together. The ability to genuinely engage with those holding opposing viewpoints to reach solutions is a skill that is necessary to face the serious challenges facing the country and planet.

Lynne Buchanan, Fletcher, North Carolina

Learn truth about Hillsdale College

A primary tenet of Hillsdale College’s teaching is the use of critical thinking to verify any statements presented as fact.

More:Can governor re-create Hillsdale College?

Opinion:New College's legacy is on the line

Two recent Herald-Tribune op-ed pieces, plus readers’ letters, have been critical of the school. Perhaps readers should exercise critical thinking prior to accepting these negative pieces.

A good place to start is to visit the college website, https://www.hillsdale.edu, noting the 36 free online courses the school offers.

Hillsdale also publishes “Imprimis,” a bimonthly publication distributed free to over 6 million readers that highlights a speech from a noted individual that was presented at the school.

Paul Nielsen, Sarasota

Independence, not indoctrination

Overflowing with chutzpah, former Sarasota County Commissioner Christian Ziegler claimed on WEDU on Friday night that New College needs to change into a school that teaches how to think and not what to think.

This is an astonishing claim from one who supports banning books and curriculum that rewrites history to support a political agenda.

As a 1976 graduate (class of 1974) of New College, the father of a 2011 graduate, a former member of the New College Foundation Board and one who has spoken with alums, students and their parents on many occasions over the past 45 years, the one thing I can assure is that New College does not indoctrinate students.

The diversity of opinions, interests, abilities and personalities, and the lack of top-down mandates, result in something more akin to herding cats than a conspiracy.

That is not to say that New College is the perfect, precious little gem claimed by some. It needs to change to improve its economic viability and allow it to survive in this fraught political environment. But any attempt to change New College’s “free market of ideas” into a factory of conservative ideologues is a tragedy.

Robert E. Turffs, Sarasota

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Governor's conservative trustees will harm New College, save mission