February 1, 2023
To: The Churches of the Florida Conference
Perhaps you’ve been reading about the recent Florida government interruption of life at New College in Sarasota, Florida. A lead article in the Orlando Sentinel on February 1, 2023 begins this way:
“Former Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran is slated to become the next president of embattled New College of Florida, while Gov. Ron DeSantis is pushing to cut diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and curtail faculty tenure on state university campuses.
All of these planned changes apparently are intended to further DeSantis’ campaign against what he describes as a “far–left” agenda in higher education.”
Current and former students, faculty, and education experts from around the country are decrying this incursion into higher education by one seeking political points to engage a base of voters who have bought into the so called ‘anti-woke’ movement. It’s time for the church to raise our voice, too. It is a different voice that needs a platform you can provide.
Here’s something you maybe didn’t know: “In 1960 New College was founded as a private liberal arts college in cooperation with the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries (Congregational); in 1962, at the campus dedication ceremony on November 18, earth from Harvard was mixed with soil from New College to symbolize the shared Congregationalist origins and high academic ideals of the two institutions.”
The history of our United Church of Christ is one of valuing education and encouraging freedom of thought as each generation shapes a sound future for itself and those who will come after them. The Florida government attack on New College is an attack on foundational values that have shaped our United Church of Christ culture for generations. I encourage you to reach out to your legislators and to the governor’s office. Make it known that we value the high academic ideals upon which New College was founded and that we object to this hijacking of higher education at New College and on campuses across the state of Florida.
Rev. John Vertigan
Conference Minister, United Church of Christ in Florida