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New College of Florida faculty vote to censure the board of trustees

A picture of the front of New College, with sign and trees
New College of Florida
Several months of controversy over changes at the small liberal arts college in Sarasota have prompted faculty members to censure the board of trustees. 

The board saw a big change in January, when Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed six conservative trustees, who quickly fired the college's then president, and appointed former state education commissioner Richard Corcoran.

Faculty at New College of Florida have voted to censure the school's board of trustees.

The formal statement of disapproval sent to college leadership lays out more than a dozen complaints.

The motion states that board members are "failing in their fiduciary duties," by — among other things — not addressing what they say is the inappropriate conduct of several trustees.

One of the issues, the letter maintains, is that trustee Matthew Spalding communicated with interim president Richard Corcoran outside of public meetings in violation of Florida's sunshine laws. It also states that trustee Christopher Rufo has refused to cooperate with public records requests.

New College faculty union president Steven Shipman told WUSF News that faculty have brought their concerns to college leadership on numerous occasions to no avail.

“A number of faculty have been meeting with board members individually to try to talk to them about various things,” he said.

“There’s been emails, phone calls, all of that. We've also tried talking to our administration about these issues in the hopes that they can kind of relay the message to them in a way that's maybe easier to hear, but we just keep seeing the same problems cropping up over and over again.”

Some of the problems, Shipman said, includes some trustees demeaning students and faculty on social media.

“What we're really concerned about is that the student experience is getting a lot worse, due to actions by the Board of Trustees,” he said.

“A common union statement is that our working conditions, are the students’ learning conditions. And so, the intimidation and fear that faculty are facing, is making it harder for us to be excellent teachers and researchers. At the end of the day, we just want to be able to work with our students who are doing exciting, interesting things.”

In a written statement, a college spokesperson wrote that “a number of the items outlined in the censure are false. The vote was taken because of the fear of the unknown and concerns will subside once the faculty see how all of the changes we are making at New College are moving us in a direction of improvement and future stability for our campus. In less than 90 days, a significant portion of the faculty are aligning with all efforts for New College to become the best liberal arts college in the country."

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