(SARASOTA, FL) – In light of the unprecedented hostile takeover of New College of Florida (NCF) and resulting limits on academic expression in Florida, members of the New College community have announced the creation of “Alt New College,” (https://www.altnewcollege.org/) whose mission it is to bring leading thinkers and educators, including former NCF faculty, to teach free and subsidized lectures, tutorials and short courses and for-credit courses to support the academic freedom of students who have been put in the middle of a political crossfire by partisan politicians.  

Alt New College’s partners include Bard College, PEN America, and the Open Society University Network (OSUN), which has opened its OSUN Online Courses to students and faculty of New College, including many who have chosen to leave the institution.

Alt New College’s inaugural talk, which will be held via webcast on Monday, September 18th at 2:30pm EDT, will be a conversation between  Judith Butler,  Distinguished Professor in the Graduate School at the University of California, Berkeley whose forthcoming book Who’s Afraid of Gender? will be published by Farrar, Straus, Giroux in early 2024, and Masha Gessen, Distinguished Professor at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York and a Distinguished Visiting Writer at Bard College, on “The Authoritarian Assault on Gender Studies.”  The talk will be introduced by former New College Student Senate President and current Hampshire College third-year student Libby Harrity.

The talk is offered for free to the New College community, including current students and faculty and alums, as well as those interested in the fate of academic freedom in Florida. Attendees can register in advance for this webinar at:

Panelist Masha Gessen said, “It’s always an honor and a joy to be in conversation with Judith Butler. On this occasion, the topic and the audience feel momentous: New College Florida is now situated at the frontline of America’s autocratic attempt, and gender is at the center of the aspiring autocrats’ political agenda.”

Former NCF Gender Studies Professor Nick Clarkson said, “Florida has passed a horrifying slate of anti-trans laws in 2023, and New College’s new administrators have ensured that New College will no longer be a refuge from state violence. Canceling the Gender Studies Program is an attempt by the trustees to suppress feminist, queer, and trans knowledge. I’m excited to see gender studies teach-ins and events pop up to resist their attempts to silence us.”

Alt New College’s initial focus will be on subjects that are under assault in Florida, including race, gender, the scientific method, and academic freedom. Talks will also focus on how young people can be empowered to be civically engaged. Alt New College’s long-term goal is to build an online institute that helps incubate strategies and share resources to help protect other communities facing similar attacks. Its partners include Bard College, PEN America, and the Open Society University Network (OSUN), which has opened its OSUN Online Courses to students and faculty of New College, including many who have chosen to leave the institution.

Alt New College’s Fall Programming includes talks and short courses by: Neil Gaiman on writing; Jonathan Friedman of PEN America on Academic Freedom; Naomi Oreskes of Harvard University on the politics of science; Maya Wiley of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Alvin Starks of the Open Society Foundations on race and political attacks on Critical Race Theory; David Hogg of Leaders We Deserve and co-Founder, March for Our Lives on youth involvement in the political process; New College alum and president of the American University of Bulgaria Margee Ensign (New College ‘73) and OSUN Vice Chancellor Jonathan Becker on the civic role of universities.

Jeremy Young, Freedom to Learn program director at PEN America, said: “The soul of New College is its creativity and openness to free thought and ideas. Alt New College proposes to continue that spirit in its educational programming, at a time when New College itself has fallen under an unprecedented regime of political viewpoint censorship. Even as the New College community works to preserve and defend the institution itself, I applaud this effort to ensure that what is most special about New College survives in some form.”

Former Professor Erik Wallenberg who is teaching a short course on the history of movements for social change said: “This new administration is sowing chaos on campus for students, faculty, and staff in their pursuit of turning a beloved college into a conservative Christian outpost. They targeted members of New College who dared to teach the truth about racism, sexism, and inequality in this country and those of us who speak out against this hostile takeover. Interim President Richard Corcoran’s refusal to sign my renewal contract was but one assault among many that he continues to undertake as he attempts to fulfill Governor DeSantis’ directive to turn New College into the Hillsdale of the south.”

About the Panelists:

Judith Butler: Judith Butler is Distinguished Professor in the Graduate School and formerly the Maxine Elliot Chair in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley. They received their Ph.D. in Philosophy from Yale University in 1984. They are the author of several books, including Who’s Afraid of Gender? will be published by Farrah Strauss Giroux in early 2024. Other books include: Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France (1987), Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990), Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (1993), The Psychic Life of Power: Theories of Subjection (1997), Excitable Speech (1997), Antigone’s Claim: Kinship Between Life and Death (2000), Precarious Life: Powers of Violence and Mourning (2004); Undoing Gender (2004), Who Sings the Nation-State?: Language, Politics, Belonging (with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak in 2008), Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? (2009), Is Critique Secular? (co-written with Talal Asad, Wendy Brown, and Saba Mahmood, 2009), Sois Mon Corps (2011), co-authored with Catherine Malabou, Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism (2012), Dispossession: The Performative in the Political  (co-authored with Athena Athanasiou 2013), Senses of the Subject and Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly (2015), and a co-edited volume, Vulnerability in Resistance, with Duke University Press (2015), The Force of Nonviolence 2020, and What World is This? A Pandemic Phenomenology (2022). Their books have been translated into more than twenty-seven languages.

Masha Gessen: Masha Gessen is a Distinguished Professor at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York and a Distinguished Visiting Writer at Bard College. They are a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of 11 books of nonfiction, most recently Surviving Autocracy (Riverhead Books, June 2020); The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, which won the 2017 National Book Award for Nonfiction; The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy, a 2015 account of the Boston Marathon bombers; and The Man without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. Gessen’s journalism has focused on autocracy, LGBTQ issues, and, for the last year and a half, primarily Russia’s war in Ukraine. Gessen is the recipient of numerous awards, including Guggenheim, Andrew Carnegie, and Nieman Fellowships, the Hitchens Prize, Overseas Press Club Award for Best Commentary, the Blake-Dodd Prize for Nonfiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the 2023 Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thinking. Gessen, who grew up in Moscow, now lives in New York City.

About the Open Society University Network
The Open Society University Network (OSUN) is a global network of educational institutions that integrates learning and the advancement of knowledge—in the social sciences, the humanities, the sciences and the arts, on undergraduate and graduate levels—across geographic and demographic boundaries, promotes civic engagement on behalf of open societies, and expands access to higher education for underserved communities.

About Bard College
Founded in 1860, Bard College is a four-year, residential college of the liberal arts and sciences located 90 miles north of New York City. With the addition of the Montgomery Place estate, Bard’s campus consists of nearly 1,000 parklike acres in the Hudson River Valley. It offers bachelor of arts, bachelor of science, and bachelor of music degrees, with majors in more than 40 academic programs; graduate degrees in 13 programs; eight early colleges; and numerous dual-degree programs nationally and internationally. Building on its 163-year history as a competitive and innovative undergraduate institution, Bard College has expanded its mission as a private institution acting in the public interest across the country and around the world to meet broader student needs and increase access to liberal arts education. The undergraduate program at our main campus in upstate New York has a reputation for scholarly excellence, a focus on the arts, and civic engagement. Bard is committed to enriching culture, public life, and democratic discourse by training tomorrow’s thought leaders. For more information about Bard College, visit bard.edu.

About PEN America
PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open 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. Learn more at pen.org.
Contacts: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected] or [email protected]