Dr. Amir Hussain is Chair and Professor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where he teaches courses on religion. His own particular specialty is the study of Islam, focusing on contemporary Muslim societies in North America. He is also the President of the American Academy of Religion, and this brings us to the conversation today:
This year, a state college, New College in Sarasota, Florida came under the microscope of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has an eye on becoming the next president of the United States, and who has a plan to transform New College, which is known as progressive and describes itself as “a community of free thinkers.”
On Jan. 31, New College’s president Patricia Okker was ousted, and Gov. DeSantis unveiled his higher education policies — to further weaken faculty tenure protections, eliminate diversity and equity programs and mandate Western civilization courses, according to the New York Times.
In response, on February 9th the reputable American Council of Learned Societies released a statement that, to our mind, drew a line in the sand, noting New College as another glaring example of an attack on the principles of academic freedom and faculty governance. The claim by Florida administration of “indoctrination” and the changes to come at New College at the hands of the state, invite a conversation about the role of the university, and the shared responsibility to protect critical thinking, freedom of speech and informed debate. Take a Listen.
“How do we create educated citizens with the full range of rights, responsibilities, and thoughts that they can have? The danger becomes that we support our own and our own becomes so much narrower. That’s one of the great things for me about America. It’s the idea of the Constitution. This document says: ‘Here are our founding principles.’ There’s something here about these ideas, including the freedoms.”