The Unbreakable Spirit of New College
Palm Court in 1995. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Unbreakable Spirit of New College

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Submitted by Robin Jacobs (’03)

These days, I find myself more and more connected to the New College community and its values. In the past year, I have shown up virtually and submitted comments to New College board meetings. I have made phone calls to legislators in Florida, advocating for their support of the school.  I know more fellow, inspiring alums than ever before and reconnected with alums who I lost connections with years ago. I have donated to more student causes than ever before. I read nearly every issue of The Catalyst. I listen to podcasts where alums share how New College shaped their surprising path in life, and how many of us who have spent time educating others imbed New College philosophy into our teaching. I went to see the New College band the Dollyrots play when they came to town, complete with their kids’ traveling yo-yo show. I find that I also attend more community-building events locally that connect me to friends imbued with the spirit of New College. In all of these actions, small as they are, I find myself being so happy that they exist—that we make them exist.

The attempt to reshape the school has only strengthened my determination to live my life in a way that embodies New’s philosophy of ecstatic wonder. Following the takeover of the Board of Trustees in January of 2023, several good friends got together here in Baltimore to start writing postcards of support to students, then we expanded to professors. We planned a New [ ] Sports Themed Wall, complete with a photo booth and a clothesline of t-shirts from festivities and parties of past years. A few of us made it down to alternative graduation and marveled in amazement at what we could do as a community regardless of what the institution plans to do.

I find myself in despair now and again, and struggle sometimes to explain to those who love me why I simply cannot give up on the place despite the odds. But that’s the thing about New College—it requires you to not give up on yourself. Or anybody else. We find the most difficult academic challenges and marvel in them, make a contract with ourselves to take them on. We build community with those who have been rejected by others. That radical acceptance and joy is a rare treasure in this world that deserves saving. 

My own New College education continued long past the years in Sarasota. I landed not long after graduation in a similarly quirky place well-known for forging its own path regardless of the hardships it faces, Baltimore City. There are these pockets out in the world of these valuable spaces—they may not be the same as the Center of the Universe, but their existence persists because the allure of a liberated community is too powerful not to persist. Sure, it is messy, disorganized, even chaotic sometimes. But there’s also such beauty and wonder there. I look forward to us all creating those spaces together.

Robin Jacobs graduated from New College in 2003 with an Area of Concentration in Philosophy and Religion. Jacobs is currently an attorney, a community gardener, knitter, Buddhist, bicyclist, vegan, fan of local arts and music, avid reader and hiker.

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