Faculty members at New College of Florida have taken the unusual step of censuring the school’s board of trustees for “disregarding their fiduciary duties,” according to a letter sent to college leaders Monday.
About 80% of the faculty voted in favor of a motion listing 13 complaints against the board, which was revamped on Jan. 6 when Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed six new trustees to change the direction of the small, liberal arts college.
Since then, “we’ve just experienced one thing after another that illustrates that the board members are not fulfilling their fiduciary duties,” said Liz Leininger, a faculty member who raised the motion on behalf of a colleague.
The Sarasota school said in a statement that many of the complaints were false. It said “resistance to change” is a common reaction to transitions. And it predicted the concerns would subside “once the faculty see how all of the changes we are making at New College are moving us in a direction of improvement and future stability for our campus.”
Leininger said faculty leaders chose a censure instead of a vote of no confidence because they are hoping the board will correct specific behaviors.
The motion states in part that trustee Matthew Spalding, a dean at Hillsdale College in Michigan, communicated with former Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran outside of public meetings to pave the way for Corcoran becoming New College’s interim president in February.
It states that trustee Christopher Rufo, an activist who has designed several conservative education policies, “refuses to cooperate with public records ... requests related to his work” at the school.
It also says Rufo, trustee Mark Bauerlein and Eddie Speir have not to their knowledge “disclosed financial conflicts of interests related to school partnerships, other governing boards, or income from subscriptions to their writings or test products.” Speir was initially appointed to the board by DeSantis, but recently failed to win approval from the Florida Senate.
The censure motion further states that, when a board majority voted to deny five faculty members tenure, they did so without explanation “or evidence of having read the tenure files or understanding tenure processes at the college, as is their duty.”