Host: New College forced the organization formerly known as AltNewCollege to rebrand itself as AltLiberalArts. But that doesn’t mean that organization is distancing itself from its mission to respond to the challenges brought about by the hostile takeover of New College of Florida early this year. Mary Ruiz is now a spokeswoman for the organization. She happens to be the former chair of the New College board of trustees who resigned this summer. And she is adamant that AltLiberalArts continues to defend the liberal arts tradition with lectures that are available for everyone at no cost. Dania Hefley reports for WSLR News.
Mary Ruiz: We’re very focused on the long-standing history of liberal arts education, being a focus of positive and constructive civic engagement in the world. This dates all the way back to the classics. And so, it is one of the things that we want to highlight as we go forward.
Dania Hefley: That was Mary Ruiz, spokeswoman for AltLiberalArts. She explained that the organization’s aim with these lectures is to support academic freedom, emphasizing that the implications of academic freedom extend far beyond the classroom. This non-profit educational initiative continues to offer alternative and online learning platforms, to address the gaps resulting from bans, censorship, and threats that stifle academic freedom in college and early college studies in the United States.
AltLiberalArts partnered with Bard College, PEN America, and the Open Society University Network. The latter has made its complete curriculum accessible to students worldwide who are facing similar issues related to academic censorship and suppression.
MR: Academic freedom is important. Because, if you don’t have academic freedom in education, you can’t find freedom in any part of society. So what has been presented as a challenge at New College and other places in Florida, and in other states, is an important issue for our times. And AltLiberalArts is doing its part to make sure that these subjects that are being withheld or repressed or threatened are still available to students and scholars.
DH: On Sept. 28, the organization received a cease-and-desist letter from the legal team of New College of Florida. This letter demanded that the organization eliminate any usage of the trademarks “New College” or “New College of Florida.”
The university’s legal team filed for a trademark on the same day they sent out that letter. New College gave the organization until Oct. 6 to remove the name from all its platforms.
On Oct. 6, AltNewCollege issued a press release announcing its name change to AltLiberalArts. Regarding the cease-and-desist demands, Ruiz said that changing the name was a straightforward choice.
MR: We were not intending to create confusion between our name and anybody else’s name. There are many New Colleges in the world – there’s New College of Florida, New College of California, Arizona. And so, to avoid confusion with any, or all, of those folks, we just decided to change our name to AltLiberalArts.
Ruiz also discussed the organization’s past and upcoming lecture offerings, emphasizing their commitment to promoting academic freedom.
MR: Folks can find information on our upcoming lectures on our website, AltLiberalArts.org, and these lectures are free.
She highlighted a recent lecture series by Neil Gaiman on creative writing and mentioned an upcoming lecture on science and politics with Naomi Oreskes from Harvard University. This lecture will explore how political views can hinder scientific inquiry, shifting the focus away from the scientific method. It is scheduled for Oct. 25 at 4 pm.
She also announced an upcoming lecture by Dr. Margee Ensign, New College alum and president of the American University in Bosnia, and Dr. Jonathan Becker of Bard College. They will be discussing the role of colleges and universities as civic actors.
This has been Dania Hefley, reporting for WSLR News.
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Friday, December 8, 2023
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