On Nov. 4, third-year and New College Student Alliance (NCSA) President Sofia Lombardi notified the student body of recent changes made to the academic system via email to the students list. The announcement details these changes as a result of proposed Educational Policy Committee (EPC) motions during the October faculty meeting. Included in these changes are the elimination of preliminary plans and the addition of supplemental designations on narrative evaluations.
In her email, Lombardi elaborates on the relevant details of these changes as well as why they were made. The elimination of preliminary plans regards the concern of students and faculty benefiting from the earlier submission of contracts. Now to be submitted by Dec. 10, earlier contract submissions will hope to provide professors with clearer head counts for anticipated classes, aid Student Disability Services in securing accommodations prior to the start of the oncoming semester and give a more formal sense of certainty for students otherwise overwhelmed by New College’s unique course registration process. Director of Academic Initiatives and Special Projects, Professor Frank Alcock pointed to anecdotal information received by the EPC that the uncertainty of classes may be a factor in student retention.
Aside from bureaucratic logistics, the replacement of preliminary plans for earlier contracts doesn’t pose an entirely new system to students. Lombardi noted that mini-classes will continue to persist before the onset of the semester as per usual, and desired class changes made after mini-classes will be made and reflected via a contract renegotiation.
Though the function of this motion aims to improve retention rates by bettering student and faculty experience, and while its accepted change is merely a pilot program for the spring semester, many students have expressed disapproval. When asked to speak on these changes, third-year and Vice President of Academic Affairs Alyssa Boynton acknowledged student disfavor.
“I recognize that many students are not pleased with this change, so we welcome feedback,” Boynton said.
Boynton also explained that she met with EPC chair member and Associate Professor of Computer Science Matthew Lepinski on Veterans Day to discuss the issue further.
“He was extremely receptive to feedback and new ideas, so that we can find a system that’s workable and gives students the experience they’re looking for,” Boynton added. “So, feel free to send students my way or his way (email@example.com) with questions and concerns!”
To be considered in the goal of improving retention rates is New College’s reputation among the Board of Governors for a yet-to-be-realized growth plan, after having received a sum of $5.4 million from the state of Florida. When the plan was proposed in 2016, New College’s student population existed at around 900 and promised the proposed figure of 1,200 by the academic year of 2022. In fall of 2020, undergraduate enrollment stood at 646. Serving as a sort of early registration, earlier contract submission will ideally help the college provide a sense of accountability to the state regarding enrollment numbers, despite a recent history of scrutiny surrounding the issue.
The last of these changes concerning students is beginning this semester, satisfactory evaluations will be marked with a supplemental designation by the respective instructor. Supplemental evaluation designations will be categorized as “solid satisfactory,” “marginal satisfactory” or “not applicable.” These designations carry no weight unless a GPA-proxy is necessitated by a student, in which these designations will help in calculating the requested figure.
Students are permitted to select one class via contract each semester to not be included in a potential GPA proxy calculation. This class can be selected and changed up until the renegotiation deadline. Prior to this new system of supplemental designations, if a GPA proxy was required by a student, each of their individual narrative evaluations had to be read among a committee of faculty in order to determine a calculation. A rather rare circumstance, a GPA proxy may be requested if it is mandated by the application process for professional or academic programs, and if the applying student is able to provide evidence that a GPA requirement cannot be waived.
Protecting the integrity of narrative evaluations, New College students do not and will not have an official running GPA. However, if needed, a requested GPA-proxy can be made through the Center for Career Engagement and Opportunity (CEO).