The following is an email that Professor of French Language and Literature and Chair of the Faculty Amy Reid shared to the New College community on May 22, announcing the faculty’s approved motion to censure the Board of Trustees (BOT), including the rationale behind it.
In my capacity as Chair of the New College Faculty, I am sharing the rationale for and text of a motion to censure that was passed by the Faculty. The motion was discussed during our meeting on Wednesday, May 17; voting took place by electronic ballot between Wednesday, May 17 and Friday, May 19; and the motion was approved by a strong majority. Because the purpose of the motion is to express the will of the Faculty, the motion should be shared with the Trustees and any other appropriate constituencies on campus or in the State.
A motion to censure typically focuses on identifying “specific … inappropriate conduct” and invites redress (in contrast, a no‑confidence vote communicates a general lack of support). After due consideration, we believe a motion to censure is more precise in this case.
We also note that a Board of Trustees operates as a unified body of equals, which means that we must censure the BOT as a whole for their actions (which may not correspond with the individual votes and actions of individual trustees).
We want to remind people that: “‘Fiduciary’ shares a root with ‘fidelity’ …. Trustees are entrusted with furthering the ability of the college to fulfill its mission. Using the college as a tool to fulfill someone else’s mission, particularly at the expense of the college itself, runs afoul of fidelity to the mission of the institution they are sworn to uphold.”
~Matt Reed, “Trustees and Missions: Understanding the Paradox of the Trustee Role” Inside HigherEd, 1 June 2021.
Guidance from Board of Governors states that: “The welfare of NCF shall at all times be paramount and take precedence over any and all personal, parochial, and business conflicts of interest thereby ensuring that a Trustee’s independence of judgment is not compromised, and that the public’s confidence and NCF’s confidence for the integrity of the BOT are preserved, and that NCF’s public mission is protected and served.” We do not believe that the current BOT is operating on these principles. Therefore, we propose the following motion:
Move to censure the New College of Florida Board of Trustees for failing in their fiduciary duties of first: caring for the institution’s reputation and for student, faculty, and staff well-being; and second: endangering the College’s ability to fulfill its mission of preparing “intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement” and offering “a liberal arts education of the highest quality in the context of a small, residential public honors college with a distinctive academic program which develops the student’s intellectual and personal potential as fully as possible; encourages the discovery of new knowledge and values while providing opportunities to acquire established knowledge and values; and fosters the individual’s effective relationship with society.”
Whereas the New College of Florida Board of Trustees is charged (per BOG) with fiduciary duties of care (to pursue New College’s interests with diligence and prudence), loyalty (to place interests of New College above your own), and obedience (ensure New College complies with applicable laws and acts according to New College’s own policies);
Whereas both the presiding officer of the board and a majority of other voting members of the board must be free of any contractual, employment, or personal or familial financial interest in the institution;
Whereas the New College of Florida Board of Trustees should not be controlled by a minority of board members or by other organizations or interests;
Whereas public records requests revealed that an independent actor (Bob Allen) has exerted external influence over the Board of Trustees in contradiction to the principle of independence;
Whereas Trustee Jenks acted as a minority actor in isolation from other Board members, directing the College to freeze ongoing faculty and independent contractor searches during February 2023;
Whereas Trustee Spalding acted as a minority actor in isolation from other Board members, to communicate with Richard Corcoran in order to name him as interim president outside of public meetings (“The Sunshine”);
Whereas Trustees Rufo, Bauerlein and Speir have not to our knowledge disclosed financial conflicts of interests related to school partnerships, other governing boards, or income from subscriptions to their writings or test products;
Whereas Trustee Rufo refuses to cooperate with public records (aka “Sunshine Law”) requests related to his work as a trustee of New College of Florida, in contradiction to the duty of obedience;
Whereas the majority of Trustees present voted “no” on recent tenure cases without offering explanation or evidence of having read the tenure files or understanding tenure processes at the college as is their duty;
Whereas Trustee Bauerlein publicly gave a rationale for his vote on tenure cases that does not derive from New College policies as stated in the Faculty Handbook;
Whereas Trustees Rufo and Speir regularly make disparaging and unprofessional comments on social media and in news media about New College students, staff and community members, communicating a lack of fiduciary care, harming and diminishing the college’s standing;
Whereas many of the Trustees actively ignore members of the public who give comment at Board of Trustees meeting, communicating a lack of respect and care to the public including taxpayers;
Whereas Trustees have monetary responsibilities to assist the college to secure funds both by donating themselves and/or by encouraging others to do the same, which is not currently the case to our knowledge;
Be it resolved that the New College Board of Trustees is censured by the faculty for failing to uphold College policies and more broadly failing in or explicitly disregarding their fiduciary duties to the College.