AAA’s Letter to the President of the New College of Florida

Dr. Patricia Okker, President

New College of Florida

Cook Hall 204

5800 Bay Shore Road

Sarasota, FL 34243

Via email: ude.fcn@rekkotap


Dear President Okker,

On behalf of the American Anthropological Association and its 8000 members, including 212 who live and work in the state of Florida, we write to you after learning this week’s news that Governor DeSantis has now made six highly politicized appointments to the College’s Board of Trustees, with the aspiration of transforming a nationally ranked public liberal arts college into a college along the lines of the private evangelical Christian Hillsdale College.

We recognize that your office has only limited say in the selection of the College’s Trustees, but we are greatly alarmed at the aspirations to which the Governor’s office has given voice through these appointments. One of your long-time faculty colleagues, Dr. Maria Vesperi, has served our Association in a number of leadership roles for several decades, and over the years we have become familiar with the College’s strong commitment to teaching and learning, the development of critical thinking skills, and helping students think intentionally about the important ways in which their liberal arts training can prepare them for meaningful careers and participation in community life.

Our Association is committed to the principles of academic freedom, which is essential for researchers, teachers, and students to advance the purpose of institutions of higher education, including the New College of Florida, in serving the common good. We are concerned that the addition of these newly appointed Trustees is a potential threat to the College faculty’s freedom of academic inquiry and expression, and urge you in the strongest possible terms to use the full capacities of your Office to preserve, protect, and promote the pursuit of knowledge and the free exchange of ideas.

If there are ways in which our Association is able to help in this important endeavor, we are only too happy to do so.



Ramona L. Pérez, President                                Edward Liebow, Executive Director

Cc:         Dr. Maria Vesperi