Not so ‘NEW’ College – A regular Towne Meeting

Not every document in the NCSA Archives reveals a crucial event, but they do all tell a story, and they certainly all serve as a reflection of life at New College today. Minutes for the Towne Meeting of December 15, 1987 show New College students and the hubbub of student government life before the school was separated from University of South Florida (USF), including issues that have apparently never fully been resolved over a quarter of a century later.

“6:00 p.m. Dave Dagon calls meeting to order; Jonathan White begins furiously scribbling minutes,” the minutes begin. As the current Executive Secretary, I empathize with White.

“6:01 p.m. Dave begins discussion of the never-ending problem of the noise policy. Asks for the middle ground position between radical ‘Hey, we can party, and you can’t sleep or study ever,’ and radical ‘Hey, you can forget ever partying again’ positions. … The return of the Student Court launched. Our court, not their police, will be the agent of enforcement of noise policy, where on-campus complaints are involved.” How the Student Court, which in the present day does not have emergency meetings held in the middle of the night when noise complaints are most often reported, would deal with noise complaints more effectively than police is not described. Perhaps it would only deal with recurring problems?

“6:13 Jonathan raises the the issue of the Student Defender as the logical and fair balance to the Student Prosecutor in our court, and attempts to elicit support for a Constitutional Reform package in that direction.” The success of Jonathan’s attempt is not included, but the Student Defender/Student Prosecutor system appears to be a starting point for how the court has developed. The Chief Justice under current Student Court rules should look for violations and potentially bring them forward, while two counselors serve as defendant for each party involved.

“6:25 Dewey asks about general neglect by administration to their duties of informing first-year students of their student government set-up as well as the actual nature of the contract and other academic concerns.” If relying on administration to delineate the rules and functions of the NCSA wasn’t an effective method in the 1980s, then at least we can be reassured that we are not unusually incompetent in being unable to effectively inform students now.

The most notable discussion at this particular Town Meeting comes at the end. “7:08 Tomassino Kelso moves that efforts be made to explore feasibility and worth of secession from USF to become a private or separately public institution. Mike Scagliotti seconds. Discussion – a lot of it. More or less in favor of the exploration, anyway.” Before transcript-style minutes became the norm among NCSA secretaries, minutes would typically be kept like this, where the secretary documents the topic of discussion, actions taken, and a brief mention of the discussion around it. The result is that we are unable to know the specifics about how this discussion occurred. “More or less in favor of exploring,” offers the possibility of disagreement among the student body.

We have spent rather a long time now as an established public school separate from USF, and when discussing the history of that separation it doesn’t occur to the average person that students themselves may not have unanimously supported the idea of separation, or the reasons why a student wouldn’t support it.

But either way, the separation happened. No decision at New College is unanimous. It never has been.

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