Four members of Lakewood UCC joined hundreds of students, faculty, parents and supporters of New College in Sarasota in a demonstration on Tuesday Feb. 28. The Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ, traveled from Cleveland, Ohio to speak at the demonstration. There were pastors and congregants from numerous other UCC churches in west central Florida who also were present.
Why was this important to us? The Board for Homeland Ministries of the United Church of Christ started New College sixty years ago. Now it is part of the Florida public college system. Recently, the FL Governor appointed six new trustees and a president to the college to reform it into a conservative replica of Hillsdale College in Michigan. New College has traditionally been a place which welcomed all students regardless of race, religion, or sexual identity. The students have thrived there where they might not have in another college environment.
The protest at New College had two components. First was the outdoor demonstration at 11:00 am, with more than 250 participants, most with signs denouncing the hostile takeover of New College by the new conservative trustees appointed by Governor DeSantis. A particularly passionate statement was made by the Rev. John Dorhauer, from the UCC, who complained about what was happening at New College, which was founded and funded by the UCC.
The second part of the protest took place at the formal Board of Trustees Meeting beginning at 1:10 pm. The meeting began with a short report by a member of the Board Of Governors about the gains in the reputation of Florida’s Universities in the past 10 years. Then the floor was open to comments from the public. Each speaker was limited to one minute. Forty-nine speakers took the podium – students, faculty, alumni, parents and other concerned persons. All but one condemned the actions of the governor and the trustees as they tried to change the nature of New College, one of the top 5 Liberal Arts Colleges in the country. Most of the comments were directed against the firing of the current president and the hiring of a politician with no background in higher education at a salary and perks of more than a million dollars, and the disbanding of programs promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. Many of the most passionate speeches were met with applause and cheering by those in the audience, but not by the trustees!
One of the main highlights of the demonstration for the LUCC contingent was meeting and hearing Dr. John Dorhauer. His message was inspiring and passionate. When he spoke his “minute” at the Trustees meeting, many of the students rose to their feet in gleeful applause.
The number of UCC people in attendance and the passion and preparedness of the students filled us with pride and hope.
To stand and be present with the students, families, alums, and faculty was truly meaningful.
Those who went from LUCC: Dyanne Edds, Emily Bell, Bill Parsons, and Kim Wells