Statement from President Donal O’Shea on New College Admissions Process

On August 20, 2019, the Inspector General for the State University System Board of Governors issued this report. In response, we have made changes in our admissions leadership and are continuing to make changes in our admissions processes. We look forward to engaging the New College community as we implement and affirm a stronger culture of inclusion.


Inspector General’s Report

Message from President O’Shea

New College of Florida prepares intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement. We cultivate students who are independent thinkers and effective advocates. So, we are grateful to New College graduates Maria Simmerling, Eugenia Quintanilla, and Dwight Mann for initiating and persistently pressing for a review of our admissions process with regard to applicants who disclose a disability or a mental illness. We also appreciate the Board of Governors’ Inspector General for its thorough review and the recommendations in its report.

This report finds that our now former Dean of Enrollment Management instructed admissions staff to engage in practices that potentially discriminated against applicants who disclosed mental health related issues in the personal essay part of their application. As a result, the report concludes that the College’s application process potentially discriminated against these applicants.

As President, I am committed to combatting discrimination and unfairness in all forms, including anything that may create a barrier to admission for qualified students with any type of disability, including a mental health issue. As a college, we have worked hard to destigmatize mental health care, as demonstrated by the fact that a higher portion of students access mental health and counseling services during their time on our campus compared with other State University System institutions.

As a result of the Inspector General’s findings, the College has changed leadership of the Enrollment Management department. We have appointed Sonia Wu, an alumna who has served thirty years with the college, to serve as Acting Dean until an independent Interim Dean is appointed. We have engaged a nationally recognized higher education search firm to lead that process. The search for a permanent dean will begin in January and the interim dean will serve until the new dean is appointed.

We will be working with qualified consultants and advocacy groups, including Disability Rights Florida, and former Executive Director of NAMI Florida Alisa LaPolt, to review our systems, processes and application procedures and recommend improvements. We also will be working with our peer institutions in the State University System and the Board of Governors to establish consistent criteria to evaluate students who can succeed with appropriate services and accommodations. We also will conduct an independent survey of faculty, staff, students and alumni and will make additional changes based on that feedback.

In accordance with the Report Recommendations, the College will commission an independent review of the materials of applicants from the 2018 and 2019 admissions cycles who self-disclosed disabilities or mental health issues and will take any necessary appropriate actions.

New College will strive to set a new standard among Florida’s public universities for fairness and inclusivity, fostering a culture that respects, protects, and encourages diversity. We appreciate the Inspector General’s thoughtful report that has identified areas where improvement will move New College closer to becoming the genuinely inclusive institution that we aspire to be.

We look forward to welcoming our newest class of students to campus this month and will open an improved application process for Fall 2020 on September 1, 2019.

Donal O’Shea

Contact

Media contact:
Ann Comer-Woods
Director of Marketing & Communications
(941) 487-4150
communications@ncf.edu

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Board of Governors “Inspector General’s report”?

The Inspector General conducts investigations on behalf of the Chancellor of the State University System and the Board of Governors. Its review of New College’s admissions practices found that our now former Dean of Enrollment Management instructed admissions staff to engage in practices that potentially discriminated against applicants who disclosed mental health related issues in the personal essay part of their application.

What has the College done to address the concerns listed in the Inspector General’s Report?

As a result of the Inspector General’s findings, New College has initiated the following:

  1. We have changed leadership of the Enrollment Management department. We have appointed Sonia Wu, an alumna who has served thirty years with the college, to serve as Acting Dean until an independent Interim Dean is appointed. We have engaged a nationally recognized higher education search firm to lead that process.
  2. We will be working with qualified consultants and advocacy groups, including Disability Rights Florida, and former Executive Director of NAMI Florida Alisa LaPolt, to review our systems, processes and application procedures and recommend improvements.
  3. We also will be working with our peer institutions in the State University System and the Board of Governors to establish consistent criteria to evaluate students who can succeed with appropriate services and accommodations.
  4. We will commission an independent review of the materials of applicants from the 2018 and 2019 admissions cycles who self-disclosed disabilities or mental health issues and will take any necessary appropriate actions.
  5. We will be providing our auditor with more training, and will outsource investigations that may require staff to testify against highly-placed individuals.
  6. We will bolster mental health and counseling resources on campus.
  7. Through this survey and other forms of outreach, we are seeking input from the New College community to identify ways we can improve, and we will make additional changes based on that feedback.

How many applicants might have been impacted?

That is not clear yet. However, the Board of Governors report provides a sense of the application pools overall and how many applicants may have been impacted:

“The admissions data reviewed for the 2018 Admissions Cycle showed there were 58 application files, out of 1,088 total application files, that received an overall score greater than 85 points, but noted a “red-flag” or comment regarding the essay. Based on the general admissions processes described previously, 21 of those 58 application files should have been automatically routed to the Committee Bin regardless of the essay “red-flag” or comment because they received an overall score between 85 and 114 points. Another eight of those 58 application files would also have been automatically routed to the Committee Bin even though they received an overall score of 115 or greater because they noted multiple “red-flag” issues. The remaining 29 of those 58 application files would have been automatically routed to the Admit Bin based on their overall score (≥ 115 points); however, they were routed to the Committee Bin because they contained a single “red-flag” for essay. Twenty-two of those 29 application files self-disclosed a disability, mental health issue, or history of abuse; of those, thirteen were admitted to New College, whereas the other nine were denied admission.”

“The admissions data reviewed for the 2019 Admissions Cycle showed there were 64 application files that received an overall score greater than 85 points, but noted a “red-flag” or comment regarding the essay, and were therefore routed to the Committee Bin. Based on the general admissions processes described previously, 25 of those 64 application files should have been automatically routed to the Committee Bin regardless of the essay “red-flag” or comment because they received an overall score between 85 and 114 points. Another 16 of those 64 application files should also have been automatically routed to the Committee Bin even though they received an overall score of 115 or greater because they noted multiple “red-flag” issues. The remaining 23 of those 64 application files would have been automatically routed to the Admit Bin based on their overall score (≥ 115 points); however, they were routed to the Committee Bin because they contained a single “red-flag” for essay. Eighteen of those 23 application files self-disclosed a mental health issue, disability, or history or experience of abuse; of those, 11 were admitted, four were denied, and three were placed on hold for additional information at the time of our review.”

We will conduct a thorough, independent review of all flagged applications. Any applicants who should have been admitted will be extended an invitation to join our community.

Why did New College wait for an external investigation before making changes in Admissions?

We began making changes in the admissions review process for the entering Fall 2020 class after conducting our own internal investigation of admissions processes. Then, when we received the Inspector General’s Draft Report, we initiated personnel changes and sought external assistance to overhaul our application review system.

Why did the internal investigation not uncover these issues?

Our auditor conducted a process review. The Board of Governors investigation team was able to conduct a deeper review, including the ability to question individuals under oath. We will be providing our auditor with more training, and will outsource investigations that may require staff to testify against highly-placed individuals.

What resources are available through New College to help students struggling with mental health issues?

Our Counseling and Wellness Center is available to provide mental health services to all students, and we will be exploring ways to proactively link students who disclose a past or current mental health issue with these resources. We are working to boost counseling resources to maximize the reach of counseling staff and the positive impact of services on student life. We know that, compared to other State University System institutions, our students are very open to accessing counseling services. The variety and scope of counseling services is detailed here.

How can I provide input or recommendations?

New College has asked Tallahassee-based Sachs Media Group to independently survey students, alumni, faculty, and staff in response to the Inspector General’s report. This research will be led by Karen Cyphers, Ph.D., partner and vice president of research with Sachs Media, and New College of Florida alum (‘97-’01). All responses to this survey will be aggregated before results are shared with the New College administration, and no identifying information will be included in reports to the college unless you specifically request to be identified. If you have questions, please email research@sachsmedia.com or call 850-222-1996.

Share:

Related News

Archived

Area Youth Learn About Health and the Environment During New College’s Annual PUSH-SUCCESS Program

June 7, 2012

June 7, 2012 — New College’s Pritzker Marine Biology Research Center will host 21 local middle and high school students…

Archived

New College of Florida Celebrates 46th Annual Commencement

May 26, 2012

May 25, 2012  — One of the largest graduating classes in the history of New College was told that their…

Archived

New College Student Michael Long Heads to Russia as 2012 Kremlin Fellow

May 10, 2012

May 10, 2012 — New College of Florida student Michael Long was named a 2012 Kremlin Fellow, one of only…