Readers may recall that Governor DeSantis appointed six new trustees for the New College board as part of an effort for, as one new trustee put it, "recapturing higher education" from higher educators. The appointments were harshly criticized by faculty, students, and stakeholders in the New College community, while one local legislator told attendees that, "The alternative, the school is going to be eliminated, it will be shut down."
The new trustees came loaded for bear. New Trustee Eddie Speir announced in his Substack blog that among the motions he intended to make was to, "...approve a letter to the new counsel of this board to ask for a legal opinion regarding our ability to declare a financial emergency and employ a zero-based budgeting policy of terminating all contracts for faculty, staff and administration and immediately rehiring those faculty, staff and administration who fit in the new financial and business model." Notice the presumption that the Board needs a new counsel.
Then came the first meeting of the new board. Former University of Missouri Dean of Arts and Sciences and, until Tuesday, New College President Patricia Okker - who was hired after a national search - was forced out by a 9-3 vote (with the student and faculty representatives among the three, and Board Chair Mary Ruiz abstaining). Then, after no search at all, Okker was replaced by Former Florida House Speaker, former Education Commissioner, and current lobbyist Richard Corcoran [USF login required]. The meeting seems to have been a bit of a spectacle, for Ruiz reacted to the newcomers' antics with, "I would ask trustees in the future to read the packet" sent out in advance to trustees on upcoming meetings. Later, she resigned.
The new trustees did not get all they wanted, and some vowed to carry out their various agendas. Meanwhile students and faculty vowed to continue to fight. But among the reactions nationwide were:
This has the markings of a trial balloon, and if it "works" in New College - if the spectacle advances the interests of the people pushing this transformation of one small institution - it will spread. The time to do something about this is now. Come join UFF and join the movement to save Florida higher education.
The Chapter Meeting on Friday, February 10, at 12 noon, will be on USF Tampa in EDU415. The Chapter Meeting on Friday, February 24, at 12 noon, will be on USF Sarasota / Manatee in B229. Both meetings will be hybrid, and for those who cannot attend in person, you can contact the Chapter Secretary for a Zoom invitation. For those who show up in person, there will be lunch munchies and drinks.
The calendar of chapter meetings are posted at the Events Calendar. Also posted on the Events Calendar are many other events, such as the Faculty Senate's town hall meetings tomorrow and next week.
NOTE: The USF-UFF Chapter website is http://www.uff.ourusf.org, and our e-mail address is email@example.com.
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