New College Holds Teach-In to Discuss Campus Diversity

(Sarasota, FL) February 21, 2012 – More than 300 New College of Florida students, faculty and staff gathered for a day-long Teach-In on the campus’s Z Green on Tuesday, February 14.  The purpose of the event, which was facilitated by Lecia Brooks, director of outreach for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, was to discuss issues of discrimination and diversity, and devising methods for building a more inclusive campus community. 
“The Southern Poverty Law Center was proud to support New College’s Campus-Wide Teach-In,” said Brooks about the event.  “The students, staff, faculty and administration at NCF showed great courage and compassion Tuesday.  It was abundantly clear that they care about their college community and are willing to ensure that NCF is an inclusive community.”
The idea for the Teach-In, which was modeled after a similar event held at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, this past fall, was introduced by New College students earlier this month when a confederate flag was publicly displayed by students living in one of the College’s on-campus residence halls. Students organizing the Teach-In were quick to point out that this incident was just an impetus, and not the reason for Tuesday’s Teach-In.  Rather, students decided to organize the Teach-In in an effort to bring the issues of discrimination and diversity to the forefront of the college’s attention.
The event was both an opportunity to explore whether New College’s administrative policies and its stated goal of creating a diverse and accepting community were being realized, and an opportunity for the College’s community members to propose institutional changes for improvement.
“The Teach-in was a great learning opportunity for our entire community – students, faculty and staff,” said Provost Steve Miles.  “Everyone had a chance to speak, and we all had the obligation to listen.  Now, even as we turn our attention to concrete actions that strengthen diversity and inclusion, we must continue talking and listening to each other. There is real eagerness in our community for that kind of open dialog.”
Following the incidents in early February, students gathered at a New College faculty meeting on February 8 and presented a resolution for the College to hold a day-long campus-wide Teach-In to focus on the issues of diversity, discrimination and acceptance on the New College campus.  The motion highlighted past incidents and presented a number of proposed dates for the event.  After discussion, the resolution was unanimously approved by faculty, and the New College administration agreed on the date of February 14.
“We are glad that New College took the opportunity to hold this important day,” said Claire Comiskey, one of the student organizers of the event. “We look forward to working with the staff, faculty, and administration so that the teach-in is just the beginning of long-term conversation and action to make New College a more inclusive place.”
Tuesday’s Teach-In included a variety of experiences including interactive activities, small group discussions, and time for individuals to speak to the larger community led by the Southern Poverty Law Center. There was also time allotted for attendees to submit their ideas for institutional improvement.
For more information on New College’s diversity Teach-In, please contact the Office of Public Affairs at (941) 487-4150 or email Click here to view more photos of the Teach-In.

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