New College of Florida

New College of Florida
Former names
New College of the University of South Florida
Type Public liberal arts college
Established 1960
Endowment $25 million[1]
President Donal O'Shea
Students 835 (2014)[2]
Location Sarasota, Florida, United States
Campus Urban, 144 acres (0.6 km2)
Colors Blue and White
Affiliations State University System of Florida

New College of Florida is a public liberal arts college located in Sarasota, Florida, United States. It was founded originally as a private institution and is now an autonomous honors college of the State University System of Florida.[3][4] In 2015, U.S. News & World Report ranked New College as the fifth best value public liberal arts college in the United States.[5]


Originally conceived during the late 1950s, New College was founded in 1960 as a private college by local civic leaders for academically talented students. Financial assistance was provided by the Board of Homeland Missions of the United Church of Christ.[6] George F. Baughman served as the first president from 1961 to 1965.[7]

Envisioned as a new attempt at liberal arts education in the South, the core values of the freedom of inquiry and the responsibility of individual students for their own education were to be implemented through a unique academic program.[8] Open to students of all races, genders, and religious affiliations, New College opened its doors in 1964 to a premier class of 101 students.[9][10] Faculty members included the historian and philosopher, Arnold J. Toynbee, who was lured out of retirement to join the charter faculty.

By 1972, New College's ranks had swelled to more than 500 students and it had become known for its teaching-focused faculty, its unique courses and curricula, and its fiercely independent and hard-working students. As the 1970s progressed, although New College's academic program continued to mature, inflation threatened to undermine the economic viability of the institution. By 1975, the college was $3.9 million in debt and on the brink of insolvency, and the University of South Florida (USF) expressed interest in buying the land and facilities of the near-bankrupt college to establish a branch campus for the Sarasota and Bradenton area.[10][11]

In an unusual agreement, the New College Board of Trustees agreed to hand over the school's campus and other assets to the state, at the time valued at $8.5 million, in exchange for the state paying off its debts and agreeing to continue to operate the school as a separate unit within the USF. The agreement stated that New College was to receive the same funding, per-student, as other programs at USF. The former New College Board of Trustees became the New College Foundation, and was required to raise money privately to supplement the state funds to reach the total necessary to run New College, at the time about a third of New College's $2-million-a-year operating budget. Under the agreement, New College was re-christened the "New College of the University of South Florida." USF started a Sarasota branch program that shared the bay front campus, and the schools began an uneasy relationship that would last for the next twenty-five years, with New College and the University of South Florida through its Sarasota branch program sharing the campus.[10][11]

As part of a major reorganization of Florida's public education system in 2001, New College severed its ties with USF, became the eleventh independent school in the Florida State University System, and adopted its current name, New College of Florida.[12] As part of its establishment as an independent university, the University of South Florida was directed to relocate its facilities away from the New College campus, which it did on August 28, 2006, when it opened a new campus for USF Sarasota-Manatee.[13]

Today, as Florida's independent honors college, New College retains its original academic program, while enjoying the benefits and accessibility that being a public university affords. It is a member of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges.

New College is governed by a 12-member Board of Trustees, who serve staggered four-year terms. Of the 12 members, three must be residents of Sarasota County and two must be residents of Manatee County.[14]

More details on significant historical events can be found in the New College of Florida Archives, which serves as the repository of the official and unofficial records of the college, as well as hosting the Architecture Collection and the Special Formats collection.


New College's 144-acre (0.58 km2) bay front campus is located in west Sarasota, Florida, approximately fifty miles to the south of Tampa. Situated between Sarasota Bay and the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, the college lies within a public educational, cultural, and historic district that includes the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and the Asolo Repertory Theatre. The primary campus is located on the former Edith and Charles Ringling estate.[15] The campus also includes portions of The Uplands, a residential neighborhood that is bounded by the historic bay front campus to the south, Tamiami Trail to the east, Sarasota Bay to the west, most of which used to be a portion of the estate, and the Seagate property to the north.

The campus's most remarkable structures are its three Florida 1920s boom time, grand-scale residences, the former home of Edith and Charles Ringling (today called College Hall), the former home of Hester Ringling Lancaster Sanford (today called Cook Hall), and the former home of Ellen and Ralph Caples (today called Caples Hall). The well-appointed structures date from the early to mid-1920s, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and are similar in style to the adjacent John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and their residence, Cà d'Zan. Today, these gracious homes are used as classrooms, meeting rooms, and offices and their expansive properties provide sites for the modern developments on the bay front campus.[16]

The campus is also home to several examples of high modernist architecture designed by I. M. Pei. These buildings include a complex of student residences known as "Pei", a cafeteria, and a student center. The other dormitories are Dort, Goldstein, and Palmer B. Five new dormitory buildings have been opened in the 2007–2008 school year, with the most recent opened in October 2007. They currently are referred to as V, W, X, Y, and Z. For most of the buildings naming donors have not been set in stone completely, but the largest building, "Z" has been named by the Pritzker family. They have donated several times to the college, including a library reading room and the Marine Sciences building; "X" recently was named in honor of Ulla R. Searing.

The Jane Bancroft Cook Library taken from under the bell tower. Nov 23.

The Jane Bancroft Cook Library is a joint-use library for both New College students, and the University of South Florida's Sarasota-Manatee campus.[17] It is also a resource for Manatee Community College as well as for local educators and residents. The local library collection has several hundred thousand items and access to over 10 million items through the State University Libraries system. The library also has a large collection of electronic resources available through the USF library system.[18]

In 2005, a long range campus master plan was developed through public workshops held by the design teams from the Folsom Group of Sarasota, Moule & Polyzoides of Pasadena, California, Harper Aiken Partners of St. Petersburg, Florida, Biohabitats Inc. of Canton, Georgia, and Hall Planning and Engineering of Tallahassee, Florida. Extensive participation by the students, faculty, administration, residents of the community, and staff members of local governmental agencies was a major feature of the workshops. The husband and wife architectural firm includes Liz Moule and Stefanos Polyzoides,[19] co-founder of the Congress for the New Urbanism.

The most recent addition to campus is the Academic Center and the adjacent Robert and Beverly Koski Academic Plaza. The Academic Center was awarded Gold LEED certification in the fall of 2011 for a number of sustainable features:


Program features

Four core principles form the base of New College's academic philosophy: (1) each student is responsible in the last analysis for his or her own education, (2) the best education demands a joint search for learning by exciting teachers and able students, (3) students' progress should be based on demonstrated competence and real mastery rather than on the accumulation of credits and grades, (4) students should have, from the outset, opportunities to explore in-depth, areas of interest to them. To the end of putting this philosophy into practice, New College uses a unique academic program that differs substantially from those of most other educational institutions in four key ways:[20]

The academic structure described above is implemented through classes and research projects in a diverse array of subjects in the humanities, social sciences, and the natural sciences. With a little over 800 students, an average class size of eighteen and a student to faculty ratio of 10 to 1, the academic environment is small and intimate and known for its intellectual intensity.[20]


University rankings
Liberal arts colleges
U.S. News & World Report[25] 87
Religion professor and former New College president Gordon “Mike” Michalson lectures to students during a class in 2003

In 2007, New College tied for first place in the US News and World Report rankings of the twenty-two public liberal arts colleges in the United States, up from third place in 2006.[26] New College was ranked eighty-sixth out of all public and private liberal arts colleges, up two places since 2006.[27]

The 2007 edition of The Princeton Review named New College the best value in public higher education, up from sixth place in 2006.[28][29] New College was also ranked 2nd in the August 2006 edition of High Times magazine's article "Top 10 Counterculture Colleges." Additionally, the 2006 edition of the Fiske Guide to Colleges named New College one of the nation's forty-five "Best Buys" in higher education, marking the third time that New College has been included among the guide’s list of “Best Buys” since 2004.[30] New College of Florida is listed in Loren Pope's Colleges That Change Lives.

New College also is known for its record number of Fulbright fellows. According to a list compiled in November 2005 by the Chronicle of Higher Education, New College ranked twenty-first out of the thirty top Fulbright producing bachelor's institutions, and ranked third when adjusted for per capita percentage, closely behind Pitzer College and Claremont McKenna.[31] New College has produced thirty-one Fulbright fellows during the past thirteen years, and thirty-five since the school's inception.[32]

New College consistently is ranked among the top five for "Gay Friendliest Universities" according to the Princeton Review. In 2008, New College was ranked "number two" in the country.[33]

To the consternation of college administrators, New College was ranked by the magazine High Times as one of the ten most "Pot-Friendly" colleges in the United States every year from 2002 to 2005.[34]

In 2015 New College of Florida failed to qualify for a share of a $100M pool of state educational funds after scoring third lowest statewide among Florida colleges and junior colleges on a career issue-focused rating metric. One year post-graduation, only 44% of New College graduates were working or pursuing their education full-time, by far the lowest in the Florida college system. Median wages for New College graduates employed full-time in Florida one year post-graduation was $21,200, vs over $30,000 for every other university in the state.[35] Similarly, a Brookings Institution report rating U.S. Colleges by their incremental impact on earnings 10 years post-graduation ranked New College in the bottom 15% of colleges nationwide.[36]


A small liberal arts college bringing together specialists from a diverse array of fields, New College emphasizes research involving interdisciplinary collaboration and independent study.

One such example is an art conservation research study conducted by physicists Mariana Sendova, Valentin Zhelyaskov, and recent alumnus Matthew Ramsey at New College, and the chief conservator at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Michelle Scalera, marked the inauguration of formal collaborations between the long-time neighboring institutions on Bay Shore Road. The collaboration is funded by Dr. Sendova's research grant from the U.S. Department of Education to establish an on-campus High-Resolution Raman Spectrography laboratory for the non-destructive analysis of rare objects.[37]

Since 2007, New College has been working with Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute. LRRI and NCF have established a joint bio-informatics partnership to provide faculty and their students research opportunities in the emerging fields of systems biology, bio-informatics and computational biology.[38]

Student life

New College Student Alliance

The New College Student Alliance (NCSA) is New College's student government organization. Many decisions relating to student and campus events, academic decisions and policies, the allocation of funds, and recently, the revision of the campus master plan, and the building of new dorm complexes are influenced by the opinions of the student body via the NSCA. "Towne Meetings", held monthly in Palm Court, are the main forum for public debate and are open to all students, faculty, and staff.

The NCSA Constitution states that the purpose of Towne Meetings is "to inform the student body of the actions of the NCSA, to gather opinions and ideas from the students on matters of concern to the College community, to propose and enact informed legislation, and to confirm Presidential appointments to NCSA positions as necessary." Students are welcome to make announcements and address the community with important issues at this forum, and they may call for motions on the issues they present. Typical Towne Meetings consist of 60 to 200 students, with 50 being quorum.

The NCSA constitution also is known for articulating the whimsical nature of the student body. For example, article ten (officially known as Article 9 3/4) states that:

The New College Student Alliance shall embrace the following symbols:
     a) [ ] as Mascot
     b) Palm Court as the Center of the Universe
     c) Our Motto: "There is more to running a starship than answering a bunch of damn fool questions"
     d) Our Mission: "That the natural state of the human spirit is ecstatic wonder! That we should not settle for less!"[1]

  1. ^

The NCSA cabinet consists of a President or two Co-Presidents, a Chief of Staff, a Vice President of Student Affairs, a Vice President of Relations and Financial Affairs, a Vice President of Academic Affairs, a Vice President of Green Affairs (also known as Captain Planet), a Vice President of Diversity and Inclusivity, and an Executive Secretary.

Student politics

New College students are generally known as more political than most, and tend to lean left-liberal in orientation. Over the years students have taken part in a number of local, regional and national protests and demonstrations.

What is likely the largest protest took place at New College on May 2, 1988. Hundreds of students were present and 43 were arrested as bulldozers were brought in to demolish a grove of trees which had been part of the campus culture since the founding of the school. The term “the Grove,” referred to a rather remote stand of about 200 oak, pine and palm trees on the East side of campus where students used to gather from time to time. It provided a buffer between New College and the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (which owns the land New College occupies on the East side of US-41) and offered a sort of “wilderness” area which students would use for various purposes. Numerous parties, bonfires, romantic interludes, Wiccan ceremonies, etc. would occur there.

The Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority, as a part of their expansion, wanted to build a new exit road out of the airport which would go right through the Grove. Students on campus mobilized in defense of their campus. The New College Student Alliance and their legal team tried to work with the New College and USF administration and the Airport authority to reroute the road and avoid destroying the Grove. While initially cooperative, the Airport Authority ultimately ignored the legal challenges students had filed against the construction and one morning showed up with bulldozers, a logging crew, and dozens of police officers to clear the Grove, arrest the students, and take them to jail.

Hundreds of New College students observed the event, and many took part protesting the demolition of the Grove by occupying the space, getting in front of the machinery, and generally creating a nuisance. While some of the 43 students who were arrested complained of police mistreatment, charges against all the students were dropped by the end of the day.

Eric Shickler, now a political science professor at UC Berkeley, articulated the student perspective. In a letter to Sarasota-Herald, on April 18, 1988, Shickler argued it was wrong “to portray the students’ interest as minor and only a matter of ‘trees.’” He went on to say: “What is at stake here is the quality of life for the students who use the East Campus of New College, including interference with a $1.2 million capital improvement project, the Student Center Complex, which will be operated and maintained by student funds. “ He continued: “Also at issue is the airport authority’s heavy-handed refusal to give any consideration to its neighbors, even when presented with reasonable, responsible and feasible alternatives to preserve the public interest.”

Many students were traumatized by the events, and some did not return to school in the fall. The incident further alienated the USF administration from the New College student body, feeding sentiments which would lead to New College’s eventual independence. Other reactions to the Grove Protest were more positive and involved planting hundreds of trees all over campus which are still thriving today.


Most alumni live in Florida, but large clusters of alums gravitate to New York City, San Francisco, Manhattan, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, and Boston.

New College graduates are relatively few (about 4,000), although everyone who has attended the college for more than one semester, regardless of graduation status, is considered a New College alumnus. They are dated by the year they entered New College, not by graduation year. For example, a student entering New College in 1985 would be considered part of the "Class of 1985." (Among these should be counted Mark Weiser, visionary Xerox PARC computer scientist, who conceived of the approach to evolving computer interfaces known as "ubiquitous computing." Weiser attended New College from 1970 through 1974, continuing his education at the University of Michigan (Masters, PhD.).

Among the most prominent New College graduates are president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York William Dudley; Ambassador Nancy McEldowney, Law Professor Anita L. Allen, named to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues; Mathematician and Fields Medalist William Thurston; Jennifer Granick Attorney, Director of Civil Liberties, Stanford Center for Internet and Society and former Civil Liberties Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation; bestselling author of Getting Things Done David Allen (author); civic leader and environmental researcher, Jono Miller; national Telemundo anchor Jose Diaz-Balart; founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies Rick Doblin; Emmy-award-winning TV writer/producer Carol Flint; former U.S. Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart; CEO of Barnie's Coffee & Tea Jonathan Smiga; professor of law and director for Cumberland School of Law's Center for Biotechnology, Law, and Ethics David M. Smolin; internet personality Merlin Mann; cinematographer Ryan Francis White; singer-songwriter Jaymay; and pop punk band The Dollyrots, and David Pini.


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  6. A Brief History - New College of Florida, The public liberal arts honors college for the state of Florida
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  9. "News Notes: Classroom and Campus". The New York Times. March 1, 1964. pp. Page E7.
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  11. 1 2 "Innovative Florida College Saved From Bankruptcy by Ex-Trustees". The New York Times. January 26, 1977. p. Page 28.
  12. Klein, Barry (May 11, 2001). "The New College try". St. Petersburg Times. pp. Page 1A.
  13. USF Sarasota-Manatee - New Campus
  14. Florida Statutes 1004.32(3)(a) and (b).
  15. New College - The Campus and Facilities
  16. NCF .edu, Ringling
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  18. "About the Library".
  19. Biography of Stefanos Polyziodes
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  30. New College of Florida - Liberal Arts
  31. New College of Florida - 2004 Sarasota Reading Festival
  32. New College of Florida - Seven Fulbrights in 2007
  34. "HIGH TIMES Magazine Gives Sarasota's New College a High Five | High Times".
  35. "New College receives poor grade from Florida |".
  36. "Using earnings data to rank colleges: A value-added approach updated with College Scorecard data | Brookings Institution".
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