by Kallie Delis
Swathes of students, professors, administrators, and alumni gathered for a Save Our School rally in the ACE courtyard on Thursday, February 20 to oppose a bill in the Florida House of Representatives that would merge New College into another state university. When House Bill 7087 was introduced into the legislature last week, it originally proposed folding New College into Florida State University and Florida Polytechnic University into the University of Florida. An amended version of the bill, which goes before the House Appropriations Committee on February 25, now proposes to merge both of the smaller institutions into the University of Florida.
Last Thursday’s rally highlighted the displeasure that students were feeling in response to the bill. Florida Poly also hosted a rally on their campus at the same time as NCF.
The organizers of the NCF rally were students Alexandra Barbat, Eleanor Young, Sofia Lombardi, Daria Paulis, Joseph Daniels, and Steven Keshishian. In preparation for the rally, the organizers hosted a series of events including a letter-to-the-editor workshop, a poster-making session, media training, and a storytelling workshop.
“It’s always an honor to work with students that put the school first and put the community first. Seeing how many of our young organizers have been able to mobilize with such quickness and efficiency makes me proud to work with them,” Keshishian said.
Even some professors showed their encouragement by cancelling class or ending early to give students the opportunity to voice their opposition to the bill. An additional display of support came from Assistant Professor of Computer Science Matthew Lepinski, who was one of the speakers at the rally.
The speakers ranged from students, professors, and alumni to NCF President Donal O’Shea and Board of Trustees Chair Felice Schulaner, who is also an alumna. Previous Sarasota County Commissioner candidate and NCF alumna Wesley Beggs highlighted the uniqueness that NCF graduates possess. The speakers’ messages focused on the merits and individuality of the institution, as well as the misleading math that is being used to justify the merger.
“Cost per student is not a valuable way to figure out how much it takes to run a college,” Barbat said.
Beyond the universities directly involved, USF St. Pete’s The Crow’s Nest staff offered insight through an editorial that commended NCF and Florida Poly on their efforts to challenge the representatives in Tallahassee. The student writers cited their own experience with consolidation and how it dealt blows to the school’s autonomy and identity – a grim warning to NCF and Florida Poly of what could come.
Barbat, one of the main organizers, referenced this opinion piece as further evidence that the merger is a detrimental plan. She found reassurance that the rally was necessary, seeing as other state schools were reflecting and wishing they would have organized more around such an issue.
“I want a way to visually show our representatives that we don’t support this bill and that our community stands by us in opposing it,” Barbat said.
Kallie Delis is a student at New College of Florida.