COVID reopening plan caps a tumultuous year for New College of Florida

College Hall at the New College of Florida in Sarasota. Credit: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

New College of Florida, in Sarasota, had its fair share of challenges this year — fighting off a merger with the University of Florida, lagging enrollment, and then the COVID-19 crisis.

At least a couple of those problems are being dealt with, if not surmounted entirely. The merger proposal failed in the Legislature, and New College’s plan to reopen its campus in the fall has won the endorsement from the university system’s Board of Governors.

“We had some challenges this year. Leadership issues in enrollment management significantly impacted our ability to increase our enrollment to the degree we had hoped,” Felice Schulaner, chair of the New College of Florida Board of Trustees, said in a letter to the board.

“In February, we were surprised by legislation that would have had New College absorbed by another university, first Florida State University and then the University of Florida. This was distressing and distracting for our campus community and know that it had a chilling effect on our admissions process. And then the coronavirus hit,” she continued.

All 12 of Florida public universities’ fall reopening plans, including New College’s, presented by President Donal O’Shea, were approved during the board’s Tuesday meeting.

All New College, students and employees will be required to get tested for COVID-19 before returning to campus and random tests will be conducted each week, O’Shea said.

“Testing is a key component of our plan, and here again our small size will help,” O’Shea said.

During the meeting, universities unveiled a variety of health and prevention measures to reopen campuses in the fall, following the board’s approved blueprint that addressed safety. You can read more about these plans in this Florida Phoenix story.

Meanwhile, the board unanimously approved O’Shea’s reappointment as president of New College for another year, beginning on July 1. He’s led the college since 2012.

“Despite all of these challenges, President O’Shea advanced our strategic plan, successfully helped fend off the merger discussion and orchestrated a swift and dramatic response to the COVID-19 crisis,” Schulaner said.

Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.