Budget, growth discussed at town hall

About 50 New College staff and faculty had the opportunity to have a question-and-answer session on various topics at the semester’s final Town Hall meeting Oct. 31.

This was the second Town Hall hosted by President Don O’Shea and Provost Barbara Feldman, to discuss progress on the growth plan, the development of the college’s strategic plan, and other major developments on campus.

Much of the discussion at the meeting focused on next year’s budget and how that will affect the College’s plan for growth. Vice President for Finance and Administration John Martin said he had just received word that the Florida Board of Governors has strongly supported New College’s request for initial funding for a new multipurpose facility that would replace buildings in the Palmer complex.

“We’re ranked No. 3 in importance,” in the Governors’ capital fund requests. “That’s really good news,” he said. “The BOG is giving us tremendous support. But we still have to convince the Legislature to fund us.”

Care and upkeep of older, existing buildings, particularly the Old Caples Mansion, where environmental mitigation work has forced staff and faculty to temporarily relocate, is also an ongoing concern. “Forty percent of the buildings on campus are at least 40 years old. Deferred maintenance will always be an issue,” Martin said.

Faculty and staff also had questions about the College’s new strategic enrollment plan. Director of Enrollment Management Joy Hamm outlined the work behind the plan, including a series of meetings that sought input from faculty, the community and guidance counselors.

Some expressed a concern that the push to increase enrollment could result in lowering standards. Hamm dispelled that fear, saying that although they accepted a higher percentage of applicants this fall, “we were much more selective,” she said, noting the average SAT/ACT scores are higher than in recent years.

The College is also working with an outside consultant that has surveyed potential students who have been accepted, as well as those who were accepted, yet declined to attend. Results from this research is expected by the end of the year, Hamm said.

Issues involving internal communication at the College were also discussed at the Town Hall. Director of Communications and Marketing Ann Comer-Woods says her department is looking at ways to better disseminate news and events, while decreasing the amount of email that students, staff and faculty have to contend with on a daily basis. “We’re looking at ways to provide information and engage the community without overwhelming you.”

Besides the new weekly email update from the New College News website, other avenues being explored are electronic message boards around campus, a New College app that would provide news and event information on demand, and an improved online master calendar.

There are two more town hall meetings scheduled this academic year; The next is Feb. 27 at 3:30 p.m., in Sudakoff Conference Center, and April 24, at 3:30 p.m., in the Mildred Sainer Pavilion.

Located in Sarasota, New College of Florida has educated intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement since its founding in 1960. As the State of Florida’s designated honors college, New College provides an exceptional education that transforms students’ intellectual curiosity into personal accomplishment. The 110-acre campus on Sarasota Bay is home to more than 800 students and 80 full-time faculty engaged in interdisciplinary research and collaborative learning. New College offers nearly 40 areas of concentration for undergraduates and a master’s degree program in Data Science.

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