Reduced class size leaves students forced to choose between graduation food or PCP

photo courtesy of New College of Florida
The 2018 commencement ceremony.

The New College Student Alliance (NCSA) budget has taken a hit due to the decrease in enrollment this year. The NCSA budget is funded by student fees and is responsible for helping to fund organizations, clubs, graduation and Palm Court Parties (PCP). With this year’s budget restraints, the NCSA cannot afford to fund both the annual commencement PCP and the food that accompanies the graduation ceremony.

The administration has offered to pay $7,500 towards the graduation food. In return for covering most of the food fees, the administration wants the NCSA to forgo PCP and use the funds set aside—$3,500—to pay for the rest of the graduation buffet. This year’s buffet was budgeted at $9,000, a $2,000 increase from last year.

“The food has been catered by Metz (NCF’s food service provider) for the last two years and has actually been budgeted as being $7,000 in the past,” NCSA Vice President of Relations and Financial Affairs (VPRFA) Eva Ernst said in an email interview. “I look forward to understanding the reasoning behind upping this by $2,000. As far as I understand, it is usually standard buffet food, small sandwiches, appetizers, etc.”

Ernst’s position requires her to work with the NCSA co-presidents and Dawn Shongood, student government business manager/coordinator, to create the NCSA budget for the year. Ernst plans to meet with President Donal O’Shea to determine why the administration is willing to pay $7,500 for graduation food but will not cover the remaining $3,500 balance for PCP. She has already discussed the issue with the Vice President for Finance and Administration John Martin. Martin explained to Ernst that the $7,500 the administration offered is comprised of profits made from campus vending machines and the rent the Sarasota Classic Car Museum pays to New College.

“The school’s budget that they use for graduation comes from Donal O’Shea’s discretionary and they are not really allowed to use it to purchase food but the A&S (activity and service) fee can,” Ernst said.

Graduating students, as well as lower years, are angered over the prospect of losing graduation PCP as it is viewed as a send-off to graduating students before they embark on their next chapter in life. Alumni also recognize the importance of this tradition and have stated on the NC(F) Daimon Facebook group that, if necessary, they would attempt to help fundraise expenses to protect graduation PCP.

“PCPs are one of the few remaining New College traditions,” second-year Anna Lynn Winfrey said in an email interview. Winfrey is familiar with New College culture and traditions as her mother is an alumna. Winfrey explained that at one point PCPs were a regular event and not as big of a deal due to their frequent occurrence.

“Many administrators want to get rid of it because they think everyone does drugs, and they’re afraid that it makes the school look bad,” Winfrey said. “If Donal O’Shea wants graduation food so bad, he should pay for it himself. We’re paying him nearly $300K pro annum, it’s not like he couldn’t afford it.”

When asked about the validity of students and alums attempting to fundraise for PCP through donations, Ernst pointed out that the administration could still decide not to hold the event.

“$2,500 of [the PCP] budget goes to security alone so that would be a big chunk of the fundraising,” Ernst said. “I’ve never been confronted with a situation like this before, so I am assuming you would just need to raise the money in an adequate amount of time and get the support of the administration, but of course they still might say no.”

Over the last year, Ernst has met frequently with Shongood and Martin on behalf of the NCSA. She has met infrequently with Katherine Becker, secretary for Dean of Student Affairs Robin Williamson’s office, Mark Stier, senior associate dean for student affairs, Courtney Hughes, director of student success programs, Provost Barbara Feldman, Jim Tietsworth, New College Alumnae/i Association board member, and Kathleen McCoy, assistant director of the Alumnae/i Association, over other minor issues with budgeting.

“I think some really great ways for students to voice their concerns is to come to either a [NCSA] member’s office hours in the NCSA office which is advertised on the Student’s List and Forum, or to come to [NCSA] cabinet meetings which are also public,” Ernst said. “We want to hear your thoughts as they come! We are just as passionate about a lot of these issues as you are, and we want to talk to you about what we’re doing.”

Ernst sent out a Google form on the Student’s List and Forum so that students can provide input regarding the budgeting issue to the NCSA.

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