OP-ED: Open Letter to the New College Community
Those participating in public comment stood at this podium to address the BOT. Photo taken by Sophia Brown

OP-ED: Open Letter to the New College Community

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Submitted by David Land (’70)

To everything there is a season
A time for every purpose under heaven

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to harvest,

a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build up

Ecclesiastes 3 

Now is our season to heal and build up.

It was important we spoke as we did in recent meetings, for the trustees to hear our fears, dreams and love of the institution of which we are a part. It was important we hear the trustees’ concerns and beliefs even when they differed from our own.

Now we all must be better, move beyond vents and ideological jargon.  If we do not, the outcome may be little different than when once tragically said, “We had to destroy the village to save it.”  

Whether we wish to believe otherwise, there is merit on both sides of the challenge now before us.  It is imperative to understand this. If we don’t, a wonderful village will have been destroyed without a better one replacing it.

Thirty years ago, I delivered New College’s commencement address. What I wished graduates to remember was that whatever they did in life, they should always attempt to build bridges between those at odds with one another.  

Thus, I would respectfully ask all parties to commit to the following:

  • During meetings, public comments refrain from vilification of trustees individually or collectively, but instead constructively delineate a concern, need or opportunity, and make recommendations how it might best be addressed;
  • During meetings, the public refrains from oral outbursts and catcalls;
  • During meetings and public statements, trustees would be equally constructive and considerate;
  • When exchanges occur outside meetings, these also would be constructive and considerate;
  • After each meeting, the board does not depart through the rear exit but first mingles with those who attended; 
  • Before regularly scheduled meetings, hold a luncheon compliant with Sunshine Law for the trustees, interim president, students chosen by student government and faculty by their senate; 
  • At each regularly scheduled meeting, address an issue selected rotationally by the students, faculty and New College Foundation with a presentation made by the party choosing the issue followed by discussion among the trustees, president and presenting party; and 
  • Students would establish a shadow board of trustees addressing the same issues as the trustees and sharing results of its deliberations with them.

If New College is truly special, worthy of designation as Florida’s honors college, an important gathering place for contributing to the betterment of our state, it should become a model for how a university with differing visions can come together to build an institution whose value and contributions exceed what any of these visions individually might have contemplated.

David Land is a New College (’70) and University of Florida (’74) alum whose family first arrived in the state in 1848.  He is author of professional works and decorated combat veteran; oversaw management of 150,000 acres in southwest Florida;  founded a successful waste management company; served on city, county, state, and regional boards and commissions; advised educational institutions from pre-K through university; led industry associations; testified before Congress and negotiated with the US trade ambassador on behalf of Florida farmers; advised international organizations, governments and corporations on economic development and food security in twenty countries; and helped found and served on boards of non-profits which assist the disadvantaged in the U.S. and abroad.

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