Community-building and discussion following the teach-in

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On Feb. 14, the New College of Florida campus was shut down to open discussion about discrimination issues on campus. About one quarter of New College’s population attended the teach-in, including a large amount of faculty and staff members. Several things were discussed and brought to light throughout the day, but everyone left knowing one thing: the New College community doesn’t always feel like a community.

Professor of English Miriam Wallace said that one of the things that she feels inhibits the sense of community is the physical division between administration, faculty, staff and students.

“There’s the students’ side of campus, then the library area, then the natural science buildings and then the administration offices,” Wallace said. “What does that say about division? There aren’t any places for faculty and staff – we don’t have a lounge or a separate eating area, so once a colleague moves out of your building you might never see them again. That doesn’t build community.”

Although the Four Winds Café was originally intended to be a place where students, faculty and staff could all go for coffee or to just take a break, it has become more of a student hang-out.

“How often do you see a faculty or staff member at the Four Winds?” Wallace said. “It just feels like a hang-out for 20-year-olds.”

Beyond the lack of space for faculty and staff members, there is also not a space centrally located on campus for faculty, staff and students to interact in.

The New College Student Alliance (NCSA) is in the process of developing a student lounge in the Academic Center, which should be opening soon, but faculty and staff don’t necessarily feel that they will be welcome there, despite the fact that the lounge will be located under many of their offices.

“When the lounge opens, I hope to have something like a staff-faculty-student mixer,” NCSA president Michael Long said. “I want people, especially our faculty and staff, to know that they are welcome there and that the lounge is their space, too.”

“I don’t want to say it’s about tolerance,” Wallace said. “Tolerance means that we are just sitting around accepting what is happening around us. I want this to be about respect, and reciprocal respect at that – otherwise, we won’t see the changes that the teach-in sought.”

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