Officially known (since 1975) as The New College of the Univeristy of South Florida, this is a small college of about 600 students in Sarasota, Florida. The primary features of New College are its small class sizes (10:1 student to teacher ratio), its narrative evaluations in place of traditional grading, its contract system, and its demanding senior theses. For a couple of years, New College was named as Money Magazine "Best College Buy" -- which may be why most New College students go for the Economy Sized five- or six-year education. The experimental academic program of the college links it with Hampshire College, Reed College, and The Evergreen State College. Visitors can expect to find many students who experiment on a daily basis (the school is widely known as a drug haven, but what college isn't these days?)

The campus is divided by US 41, with one side having buildings designed by I. M. Pei. The other half of campus occupies the former estate of Charles Ringling, of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The school is situated just next to the Sarasota - Bradenton International Airport, fueling paranoia that the school is secretly run by the CIA to keep America's most brilliant deviants distracted by drugs and the sound of jets idling at all hours of the day.

New College has it's problems, primarily lack of diversity. When 95% of the student body is white, at least 25% queer, the slightest voice of dissention can become the threat of evil Nazi homophobia. Still, I'm glad I graduated from a school with the motto "The natural state of the human spirit is ecstatic wonder. We should not settle for less."

General Info

"The mission of New College is to offer an undergraduate liberal arts education of the highest quality in the context of a small, residential public honors college with a distinctive academic program which develops the student's intellectual and personal potential as fully as possible; encourages the discovery of new knowledge and values while providing opportunities to acquire established knowledge and values; and fosters the individual's effective relationship with society." (from the New College Mission Statement)

"Throughout the history of New College, four principles have defined the college's educational philosophy:
1. Each student is responsible in the last analysis for his or her own education;
2. The best education demands a joint search for learning by exciting teachers and able students;
3. Students' progress should be based on demonstrated competence and real mastery rather than on the accumulation of credits and grades;
4. And students should have, from the outset, opportunities to explore in depth, areas of interest to them."

New College of Florida is the public honors college for bright, motivated students with a passion for independence., currently voted the number one Best Bargain for Public schools by the Princeton Review. New College is located on the Sarasota Bay in western Florida. The 140-acre bay front campus houses over 40 buildings, ranging from the monumental mansions of the former Charles Ringling estate to the modernist dorm complex designed by I. M. Pei.

History

"Founded in 1960 as a private college for academically talented students, New College became a public college in 1975 through a merger with the State of Florida System which resulted in its affiliation with the University of South Florida. Today, as the state's independent honors college, New College of Florida retains its distinctive academic program and high standards which make it a college of choice for students who can manage the freedom and responsibility of designing their own education." (New College Web Site: www.ncf.edu)

New College Students

Over the past 40 years New College has grown from having 101 students to roughly 675 (and hopes to grow to upwards of 1000 in the next few years as new dormitories are being constructed). The campus is defined by bare feet, clove cigarettes and dreadlocks and overwhelmingly liberal political views. Students highly value individual freedom and self leadership. ""It's a homogeny of weirdness," writes a senior. The "weirdness" of NCF students works in tandem with their intelligence. Many students tore up acceptance letters from other prestigious institutions, like Princeton, Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Williams, and, well, the list is long, in favor of studying alongside the "wonderfully creative, intelligent" students at NCF."(from www.princetonreview.com)

Student Government

One of the many unique features of New College is it's student government. New College has maintained such a small size (although it does plan to grow significantly in the next decade) that it can have a fairly participatory democracy. Many decisions relating to student and campus events, professors, the allocation of funds and most recently the revision of the campus master plan and the building of new dorm complexes are often made or influenced by the decisions of the student government. As with all student governments it has the typical officers; president, vice president and so on. The unique part is the Towne Meeting. Towne meetings are held once monthly in Palm Court (the social center of campus) and every student, faculty and administrator is welcome to attend. From the student government constitution, "The Towne Meeting is a meeting chaired by the Vice President of Student Affairs and is open to all New College students. Its purpose is to inform the student body of the actions of the NCSA, to gather opinions and ideas from the students on matters of concern to the College community, to propose and enact informed legislation, and to confirm Presidential appointments to NCSA positions as necessary...A quorum of the Towne Meeting shall consist of at least fifty students (other than the Vice President of Student Affairs). When this quorum is met, those motions that receive a simple majority of votes cast shall be binding upon the various persons elected and appointed to NCSA positions described in this document." Students are welcome to make announcments and address the community with important issues at this forum, and call for motions on the issues they present.

Symbols embraced by the New College Student Alliance:

  • The Empty Set as Mascot
  • Palm Court as the Center of the Universe
  • Our Motto: ‘There is more to running a starship than answering a bunch of damn fool questions”
  • Our Mission: “That the natural state of the human spirit is ecstatic wonder! That we should not settle for less!”

Academics and The Contract System

New College is entirely undergraduate liberal arts. At New College students can choose from over thirty areas of concentration and from about 200 courses each semester. In addition to the standard courses that are offered, about 400 tutorials are taught each semester.

Tutorials are the essence of the New College way. Students have the option of creating their own curriculum in tutorials. Tutorials are sponsored by a professor and are of equal worth to a normal class. Tutorials are so important at New College because of New College's small size. Not all of the classes can be offered every semester, so tutorials allow students to pursue their goals without wasting time.

The New College academic system does not use letter grades or a grade point average, there is no such thing as "credit hours" or even required courses that every student has to take. New College uses a pass/fail system based around the academic contract. The New College system (as pleasant as it may sound now) is by no means for the faint of heart.

To graduate from New College a student must Satisfy (or Sat) 7 contracts (equivalent to 3.5 years in college). Each semester the academic contract is drawn up and negotiated between the student and their academic advisor. How many classes each student takes and the terms for passing a contract differs for every student. Students typically take between 3 and 6 classes and the most popular terms to Sat a contract is the "3 out of 4" route, where a student has to pass all but one of their classes. Of course, the terms of the contract can be as creative as "In Macroeconomics I want to understand multipliers" and as long as there was proof that you understood them you could Sat your contract. The student chooses what classes are applicable to their area of interest.

In class, instead of grades, students are given written evaluations of their work highlighting their strong and weak points and containing suggestions for improvement. This system can be tough, because even when you pass and assignment, you still receive criticism.

During students fourth year at New College they make their thesis. The New College thesis is a final project of sorts, worked on for a full year and determining whether or not students get their degree. The thesis can be anywhere from 50 to 300 pages long, it can be research, it can be a work of art, a small business...just about anything. Thesis' tie in with the students major. "Thesis completed, you sit for a baccalaureate exam, an oral examination based upon your thesis, AOC and your overall career at New College. The exam is conducted by your thesis committee and is open to the College community. After you’ve passed your “bacc,” and completed your final contract, the faculty votes your graduation."(from www.ncf.edu) It is often joked that you can tell a thesis student from their constant twitching and the crazed look in their eye - it is a stressful year.

Professors

The student faculty ratio at new college is about 1:11. 98% of professors hold a Ph.D. and many frequently publish their work. They are all full time professors. The professors at New College value the student-faculty interaction as much as the students do. Even so far as that the Philosophy teacher can often be seen playing ping pong with students, and a math professor grapples with students in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class.

Sports and Activities

New College Football - Still Undefeated.

New College has no intramural sports, it has no frats and no sororities. Most physical activity is spur of the moment - soccer games, ultimate Frisbee, rowing and swimming. Classes such as Aikido , Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, and Capoeira and Yoga are offered for free at the fitness center.

There are many political and activist groups on campus including the Student Government, the Democrats, the Republicans (I think there are currently about 5), the Green party, Amnesty International, FEMLA, NicRAK (random act of kindness) to name a few.

The closest things to frats and sororities at New College would be the loosely grouped circles of friends the Ninjas, the Pirates and the New College Zombie Awareness Organization. Yes, they are indeed as goofy as they sound. The Ninjas claim not to exist and hold covert meetings, the New College Zombie Awareness Organization has rigorous physical and mental tests prospective members must go through to join to see if they can handle the threat of zombies. The only group that is open to anyone is the Pirates. The pirates regularly hold meetings in Palm Court (the open air meeting space)on Friday nights where anyone who is willing to drink some rum, bury some treasure, draw some maps, chase ninjas and say "arrggh" a lot is welcome. The pirates and the ninjas are arch enemies, but no worries, it is all in fun and the students from each group often spend time together.

Ask any student and they will tell you that Sarasota isn't exactly known for catering nightlife to college students, so, every Friday and Saturday night in Palm Court there is a "wall". Walls are parties centered around speakers that are set up on the wall (hence the name) Everyone drinks and dances and has a generally good time. Walls start at midnight and end at 5 or 6 am. Walls have been going on at New College every Friday and Saturday night since New College opened in the 60's, but have only been called Walls since the 80's. Walls are set up by students and often have themes and incentive to dress up. The students who are running the wall get to pick the theme and the music for the night. However, if the student/students who are hosting the wall leave the party for more than 15 minutes, the wall can be "hijacked", and whoever takes over then gets to pick the music.

Another New College tradition is the PCP (Palm Court Party). There are three PCPs a year, one for Halloween, one for Valentines day and one for graduation. PCPs require a lot of time and effort to be put into them as they are walls times 10. Graduation is the largest party of the year, normally grossing over 1000 people.

Other

Princeton Review Ratings for New College in 2004 out of 357 colleges in the nation.
#16 Professors Bring Material to Life - Academics
#17 Their Students Never Stop Studying - Academics
#1 Best Bargains - Public Administration
#11 Students Happy With Financial Aid - Administration
#4 Gay Community Accepted - Demographics
#9 Students Ignore God on a Regular Basis - Demographics
#3 Intercollegiate Sports Unpopular Or Nonexistent - extracurriculars
#18 Nobody Plays Intramural Sports - Extracurriculars
#9 Reefer Madness - Parties
#11 Most Politically Active - Politics
#5 Students most Nostalgic For Bill Clinton - Politics
#4 Happy Students - Quality of Life
#11 Is It Food? - Quality of Life
#5 Birkenstock-Wearing, Tree-Hugging, Clove-Smoking Vegetarians - School Type
#6 Dodge Ball Targets - School Type

Links for Prospective Students:
www.ncf.edu
http://www.princetonreview.com/college/research/profiles/generalinfo.asp?listing=1022948<ID=1
http://www.mycollegeguide.org/ACG/NCF/

This Node is a work in progress. More info and links will be added. Please point out spelling errors, I often miss them.

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