A group of alumni have begun the process of starting a new board independent of the New College Alumni Association (NCAA), with the primary goal of separating from the New College Foundation. Although the average student’s tenure on New College’s campus only lasts four years, the community formed in that time lasts much longer. A primary way that alumni stay connected with one another is through the efforts of the NCAA, which is responsible for coordinating alumni reunions and publishing issues of Nimbus, the alumni magazine that reports on-campus news and gives notable updates on former Novos. However, since the most recent reunion, a group of alumni have begun to strike out on their own.
A Catalyst reporter had the opportunity to conduct a phone interview with Steve Jacobson (‘75), a former chair of the NCAA board and one of the founding members of this new board, operating under the name the Novo Collegian Alliance (NCA).
“[Prior to 2001] when we were still part of the University of South Florida [USF], the NCAA was essentially an independent organization representing the alums,” Jacobson said. “When we became independent, the NCAA shortly thereafter agreed to become a part of the Foundation. In doing so, [the NCAA] lost its independence, its budget, its ability to speak freely and its ability to communicate internally, because we were now governed by Sunshine Laws.”
The loss of funds affected the NCAA because the board lacked the budget to “do some of the things we’re supposed to do,” as Jacobson put it.
“For example, putting out a Nimbus three times a year,” he continued. “Sometimes we put out a Nimbus two times a year. Sometimes we put out a Nimbus in May that we wanted out in February. I was the head of the website committee. We had what could have been an operational website and the Executive Director of the NCAA at that time just didn’t do anything with it for two years. It never did go up. It got redesigned again and then that didn’t go up.”
Jacobson explained that despite the NCAA doing well in certain aspects of operations, the main struggle the group faced was establishing clear communications for alumni.
“We couldn’t get the website up, we couldn’t get the Nimbus out,” he continued. “The one thing we did really well was student grants. I ran the student grants committee too, and we did those on time, every year, twice a year. The rest of the stuff, we recognized that we weren’t really that good at and some of that stuff was the communication with alums, [including] the website and Nimbus. We thought having the college or the Foundation do that maybe would be a better thing.”
Although it seemed that enlisting the help of the Foundation would solve some of the problems the NCAA was facing, collaboration between the two raised some new concerns.
“Unfortunately, in the process of doing that [working with the Foundation] and in the process of the next few years of what the school was doing, we kind of lost control of the Nimbus completely,” Jacobson said. “The agreement with the Foundation is very clear that the NCAA was to retain editorial control…Well, that stopped happening some time ago.”
“What was actually happening was that [the] Nimbus had been taken over by the marketing department,” Jacobson elaborated. “It was no longer the alumni magazine, it was now something that the marketing department used to communicate with the general [Sarasota] community. We didn’t get to say what we wanted to say to the alums.”
The lack of editorial power over the Nimbus was an issue because it was among the most prominent ways for the NCAA to communicate with alumni. Jacobson said he and other alumni recognize this as an even more important problem to tackle now, given New College’s fight against Gov. Ron DeSantis and his newly appointed Board of Trustees (BOT).
“Now, we’re in a situation where we [alumni] really need to be able to communicate,” Jacobson said. “And we don’t have any of our means of communication. So, what do we do about that? Well, what if we recreate the NCAA in some form, under independent auspices? No longer a part of the Foundation. There’s a lot to figure out, but that’s what this particular group that I’m working with is doing.”
Jacobson clarified that while establishing communications among alumni is a significant goal for this new board, support for students, faculty and staff remain at the forefront of the group’s focus. As shared by Jacobson, the NCA’s mission statement reads:
“The purpose of the Corporation is to represent the interests of the alumni of the New College of Florida community. The primary objectives of the Corporation are threefold: first, to provide an organization to support the alumni, students, staff, allies and faculty of the informal New College working groups seeking to preserve New College of Florida, consistent with its founding principles, original ideals, mission and rigorous academic program. Second, to provide a platform for alumni and other stakeholders to share and convey the thoughts and concerns of the College’s alumni to the College’s administration, as well as to policymakers and other relevant stakeholders, especially in light of recent actions by the government of Florida, which are potentially contrary and detrimental to the founding principles and mission of the College; and third, to support the advancement of the College’s original educational mission through fundraising, networking and communications.”
Jacobson also made it clear that the NCA is not meant to be a replacement for the NCAA. On the contrary, the two are envisioned to be complementary to one another.
“We don’t yet have a clear view of how this new board will complement the NCAA, but as soon as we can get ourselves organized we can have a better handle of what we’ll do and where we’ll go with it,” Jacobson said. “We do not want to be in competition with the NCAA board or the Foundation or anybody else. We want to keep the NCAA. They are there, they are elected, they are actually representing somebody.”
Currently, elections for the NCA are being planned. Jacobson emphasized that this new board is still in its early stages. Their first meeting was held over Zoom on Mar. 2.
“We haven’t even incorporated yet,” Jacobson said. “The incorporation documents are being prepared as we speak and should be filed shortly.”
Jacobson expects the board to announce itself in the near future once incorporation is complete. He highlighted the immediate goals for the NCA as “defending New College as it has existed with the possible exception of getting better funding.” Additionally, Jacobson relayed a message to all members of the New College community:
“New College is not a failing institution. New College was doing better than any other school in the state university system (SUS) of Florida with the exception of inadequate funding and decaying facilities. New College is not failing educationally, New College is only failing as a business.”