Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Hampshire College offers admission to New College of Florida students

“Education is the backbone of our democracy”
Robert Rigo

The New College of Florida, widely known as a public liberal arts college, went through several changes brought about by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. In the past year, DeSantis changed the board of trustee members, defunded diversity, equity and inclusion offices, got rid of gender neutral bathrooms, destroyed student murals on campus and exhibited that many queer communities on campus were not welcome.

New College has a curriculum similar to Hampshire College. Students create their own concentration and receive narrative evaluations instead of grades. Hampshire put out an admission offer for New College students, and offered to match their tuition.

“When authoritarians attack higher education and try to destroy a college that is dedicated to free inquiry, and progressive values, you have to do what you can to help,” Edward Wingenbach, Hampshire College president, said. “And in our case, what made sense to us was making it possible for those students to come to Hampshire.”

Additionally, some students were moved from the apartments on campus into hotels miles away from campus.

Basil Pursley, a junior communications and media studies major, transferred to Hampshire this fall. Over the summer, he received a notice that he would be moved out of his housing to make space for freshman athletes. Pursley reached out to the housing office, but by the time he got a response, he had already moved through the process of transferring to Hampshire.

“[New College] was just no longer a safe place to be, there was just a lot of stuff, and it was no longer a place where I felt supported…they moved a bunch of students to hotels miles away from campus… the whole culture on campus changed, so [I] just decided to take this leap, figuring it can’t be worse,” Pursley said.

Hampshire’s offer allows students to continue their education without having to worry about an adjustment of curriculum. The tuition match was also an essential part of the process, according to Wingenbach.

“They can continue their path without having to start over again, or lose their credits,” Wingenbach said. “Offering to match their tuition made it possible to take advantage of that offer. You can’t offer people refuge and then make it impossible for them to take it. The costs of what the fascists do shouldn’t fall on the victims of it.”

Even though students are now able to continue with their academics in a similar way, Wingenbach expressed that it is important to acknowledge that students coming to Hampshire “are not typical transfer students.”

“I think many or most of them are excited about being at Hampshire, and being able to continue the kind of education they came to New College for, and I think all of them are sad that they had to do this… these are students who are forced out of the place they wanted to be,” Wingenbach said. “Holding both of those feelings of having a good experience but also recognizing the loss was also a really important part of this process.”

Pursley explained that whether they had stayed at New College or transferred to Hampshire, the experience they had initially committed to at the start of their school career would have been an adjustment.

“It would have been a different balance had I stayed at New College,” Pursley said. “So now it’s just, how do I get the most out of this experience that I’ve just been thrust into. No matter what I’d done, whether transfer or stay, I would’ve had my education just not be what I want anymore, and it’s really sad to know that I lost that adjacency no matter what I do.”

Even though there are academic similarities between Hampshire and New College, the shift from the coast of Florida to western Massachusetts is substantial.

“It’s very difficult to make this whole jump,” Pursley added. “I’ve never been to Massachusetts before moving here… I think people have this idea that New College and Hampshire are very similar, and I won’t deny that they are founded by the same sort of documents… Hampshire is a private school in the middle of Amherst, Massachusetts. New College is a public school on the coast of Florida. There’s a lot of cultural differences that are very noticeable and definitely make it feel very alienating at times.”

Libby Harrity, a junior political science and francophone studies major, transferred to Hampshire after being told they had to leave following a protest in which they allegedly spit on the shoe of Christoper Rufo, a conservative activist. New College told Harrity if they leave and don’t return, the charges would be dropped.

“I had no choice in coming to Hampshire, I was forced to transfer by the administration of New College of Florida,” Harrity said. “I would never have come to Hampshire if I wasn’t forced…that all being said, thank god for Hampshire. After being forced out of New College, this is the best option for me in terms of continuing a non-traditional education.”

Harrity explained that throughout their transfer process, Hampshire made it as easy as possible to transfer credits and get settled. Harrity said they feel “very comfortable with Hampshire as a home base,” but they are worried for those who are still at New College.

As former senate president at New College, Harrity worked in student life and affairs. They explained that it is “very hard” to see people at New College under new administrative changes.

“People who were sticking around who were like ‘I can make it through,’ are like ‘I need to get out right now,’” Harrity said.

Along with the 36 students this fall, Wingenbach said that there would be around 30-35 coming in the spring, with 47 students who had put in transfer requests.

Pursley explained that it is important to have educational freedoms to decide what people want to learn for themselves, and when those freedoms are taken away, it can make way for suppression.

“It’s so important that we have the freedom to learn no matter what institution we’re at, we shouldn’t be having these doors closed on us,” Pursley said. “And whether you agree with it or disagree, it’s up to you to decide but when you have those doors closed on you…you need the freedom to be able to learn in order to have a healthy democracy.”

Eve Neumann can be reached at [email protected].

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