(NEW YORK)— New College of Florida, which recently underwent significant leadership changes at the behest of Governor Ron DeSantis, has chosen not to renew the contract of Erik Wallenberg, its only U.S. history professor. PEN America said the decision is an “effective firing” of Wallenberg and “an affront to the principle of academic freedom.”

PEN America said the decision was an “appalling act of political retaliation.”

In March, Wallenberg and a colleague criticized the new direction of the college in a Teen Vogue article and specifically singled out New College trustee and conservative activist Christopher Rufo, calling Rufo’s comments to a student “demeaning and rude.” Rufo responded on Twitter by posting screenshots of the two professors’ resumes, describing their contents as “pure left-wing Mad Libs,” and adding, “thankfully, both are visiting professors.”

Two months later, interim New College president Richard Corcoran refused to renew Wallenberg’s contract, overruling Wallenberg’s division head.

In response, Jeremy C. Young, Freedom to Learn program director at PEN America, released the following statement:

“The effective firing of Erik Wallenberg, after his job was threatened publicly by a trustee he had criticized, appears to be an appalling act of political retaliation and an affront to the principle of academic freedom. It cannot be overstated how inappropriate and frightening it is to make adjunct or visiting professors’ job security contingent upon their political speech or their fealty to individual trustees. This authoritarian decision marks New College as a hostile environment for academic freedom, threatens to disrupt US history education for New College students, and will cast a broad chill over every member of the faculty, both at New College and across the country.”

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. To learn more visit PEN.org

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057