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New College of Florida Board of Trustees vote to deny tenure to five professors

New College of Florida is offering guaranteed admission to qualified area students who apply by Dec 1.
New College of Florida
New College of Florida is offering guaranteed admission to qualified area students who apply by Dec 1.

The New College of Florida Board of Trustees voted on Wednesday to deny tenure to five professors.

The move comes after administrators had already approved the permanent posts for the faculty prior to the arrival of interim president Richard Corcoran.

At several times during Wednesday's meeting, audience members chanted, 'give them tenure.'

Steven Shipman, a professor of chemistry and the school's faculty union president, said tenure offers the possibility of job security as a tradeoff for low salaries and a difficult career path.

"The protection of tenure is an essential part of the American university system and even more broadly of the American democratic ideal,” he said. “Our exceptional candidates were each hired with a promise that they would be granted a fair evaluation according to the clear procedure detailed in our collective bargaining agreement."

Corcoran had asked the faculty members to withdraw their applications for tenure ahead of the meeting. In making the request he cited 'a renewed focus on ensuring the College is moving towards a more traditional liberal arts institution.'

Before the vote, 54 people spoke during the public comment period, all in support of the five professors.

Kathleen Casto, an assistant professor of psychology at New College, told trustees that denying tenure was something they probably wouldn't want to be remembered for.

"Today, I showed those overworked and underpaid professors whose boss," she said. “Today, I considered the lives of five human beings who gave this place everything they had and more, who dared to dream and I said, 'Not today.' A sad legacy and surely not what you had hoped to achieve as a trustee."

Rebecca Black, Lin Jiang, Nassima Neggaz, Gerardo Toro Farmer and Hugo Viera-Vargas will all be up for tenure again in the next cycle, in 2024.

At the end of the meeting board member Mathew Lepinski, a New College professor, said he was concerned with the direction of the board stating, 'this is my last meeting. I am leaving the college.'

Governor Ron DeSantis in January appointed six conservative members to the New College Board of Trustees. A seventh conservative Trustee was appointed weeks later by Florida’s Board of Governors which oversees the state's public university system.

A Florida Senate committee on Monday voted 6-3 to recommend the confirmation of those seven trustees.

The confirmations moved forward the same day budget legislation negotiators agreed to give the school another $15 million.

Copyright 2023 WUSF 89.7. To see more, visit WUSF 89.7.

Cathy Carter is the education reporter for WUSF 89.7 and StateImpact Florida.
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