Republican Floridia Governor Ron DeSantis has been in the headlines again. DeSantis targeted New College, a small public liberal arts college. New College is special in its origins and history. It was founded by civic leaders in 1960 and is known for its inclusivity.
DeSantis has replaced trustees of the college with ultra-conservative individuals, who then forced out the college’s president and replaced the president with DeSantis’s former education commissioner, Richard Corcoran. One of their first actions was to nearly double Corcoran’s salary compared to his predecessor.
This behavior should not come as a surprise. Last year DeSantis pushed for the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in which public schools could not discuss gender or sexuality. This was a clear attempt to censor and criminalize transgender and queer individuals and their experiences.
DeSantis specifically targeted New College due to its left-leaning politics.
DeSantis is running for presidency, on a conservative platform. New College was underfunded by the state, but that may change as it shifts to more right-wing ideologies and practices.
Critical Race Theory, transgenderism and queer existence are “ideologies” DeSantis is against and refuses to allow to be “taught” in schools. Critical Race Theory is just acknowledging our history and the institutional racism in our nation.
There is no reason for him to stop in K-12 schools. While the phrase “knowledge is power” feels rudimentary, it still applies to all aspects of life. What is being taught in schools, no matter the grade, will shape the next generation(s). Imagine if Hitler was no longer discussed in schools because “it happened in the past” and “it may upset some.” How would we learn from history?
Upper level education is even more important. K-12 is funded by the local community through taxes, while colleges are not. This allows colleges to have better resources and overall better education. Better education creates an informed and powerful population.
DeSantis wants us to be ignorant. He wants our racist history, and current racist systems, to be forgotten and ignored. DeSantis wants to ostracize the “other” in our society — queer, trans, non-white and so on.
What can SUNY Plattsburgh students do?
There is not much students can do to directly affect Florida. New York is unlikely to follow DeSantis’s lead, as the state is largely Democratic.
However, if DeSantis becomes the Republican presidential candidate, beating former president Donald Trump, it could become a nation-wide issue.
The time to act is now. Students can raise their voices, create petitions, educate friends and family who are unaware and even try to sway others away from voting for DeSantis.
A year is not a long time in reality, and before we know it the United States will be in the thick of the 2024 election cycle.
While New York is safe for the time being, young Floridians are facing a nightmare-come-reality. Extend a hand, donate to causes such as the Trevor Project or shelters in the state. Use the power you do have as a United States citizen.