Civil rights leader to deliver keynote at New College alternative graduation

Maya Wiley, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, will speak to New College graduates at the private, alternative commencement ceremony Thursday.
Maya Wiley, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, will speak to New College graduates at the private, alternative commencement ceremony Thursday.
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Organizers of the New College of Florida graduating Class of 2023 student-led "Commencement On Our Terms" have announced civil rights leader and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Maya Wiley as the keynote speaker at the alternative graduation event on Thursday, May 18.

New College graduating seniors and Nova Alliance alumni will host Wiley during the private graduation ceremony offered to this year's New College graduates.

Wiley, a nationally known civil rights activist, attorney and professor, will celebrate New College students and recognize the graduates' pursuit of academic freedom, knowledge, and diversity, the sponsors said.

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“The students at the New College of Florida have achieved amazing academic success in the face of abhorrent challenges. They endured COVID and the politicization of their education. They have advocated tirelessly for the freedom to learn free of politics, for the freedom to be who they are, and for the freedom to fight for a campus community that embraces all who work and learn in it. They have been forced onto the front lines of a war against censorship, fear-mongering, and the rollback of civil rights. It is an absolute honor to be with this incredible class of leaders to celebrate their success and their commitment to liberties that lie at the heart of our democracy,” Wiley stated via a press release.

Since January, New College of Florida students have been active in opposing state legislation and Gov. Ron DeSantis in an effort to transform the liberal arts honors college into a conservative education experiment. Most recently, the conservative overhaul at NCF created additional barriers for students in terms of access to diversity and inclusion funding, programs, or services following Gov. Ron DeSantis' signing of SB 266 ahead of the school's commencement ceremonies on Monday.

The alternative graduation was organized by New College seniors, with support from the alumni-run Novo Collegian Alliance, which wanted to provide an opportunity for graduates to celebrate their accomplishments while supporting one another following the close of an unusual and trying semester. The graduates will celebrate in a private gathering at an undisclosed location in downtown Sarasota ahead of the school's traditional graduation, which is slated for Friday, May 19.

"Hosting an alternative commencement for the Class of 2023 was an easy decision for graduating students to make, and the right one. We're now guaranteed a graduation surrounded by the New College community members that truly want to celebrate who we are, rather than those attempting to change our culture. Thursday night will be an evening celebrating graduating students' success as undergraduates, listening to wonderful speakers, enjoying student bands, exhibiting graduating students' research and art, and more,” said organizer Madison Markham, who is graduating this week with a focus in sociology/gender studies.

“Graduating students deserve a keynote speaker who respects and aligns with New College's student body values, which we believe Maya Wiley exemplifies.

Students organizing the alternative commencement echoed fellow graduates saying hosting Wiley as the 2023 commencement speaker aligns with the values of New College's students and alumni.

Interim President Richard Corcoran announced that Dr. Scott Atlas will be the commencement speaker for the regular graduation ceremony on Friday at the Ringling Mansion.

Atlas, a radiologist, is the Robert Wesson Senior Fellow in health policy at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. He was a controversial figure in former President Donald Trump's administration, serving as a special White House advisor during the COVID-19 pandemic. His views often contradicted the prevailing medical advice on how to combat COVID.

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: New College of Florida's alternative graduation to host Maya Wiley