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SRQ DAILY Oct 9, 2021

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"We don't wait to equip our students with the tools they need to thrive in the real world; we start working with them one-on-one as soon as they enroll."

- Patricia Okker, New College of Florida
 

[Under The Hood]  A Stronger Case Against Redistricting?
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

The last time Sarasota County Commissioners adopted new boundaries for county commission districts, they ended up in court. And they won. So as the process starts anew, post-Census, is there any reason to think there will be a different outcome out of another suit?

Well, it’s too early to know, of course. While the county commission plans to redraw its lines by the end of the calendar year, it’s a little early know what case might — of let’s face it, will—be made in any litigation before the next election. It’s entirely possible the commission, which beat back accusations of racial discrimination last year, left with the lesson anything goes. And heck, that takeaway is valid. But I can’t help but think there’s a significant possibility the commission will overplay its hand, prove the case Newtown residents brought last time and strengthen a similar challenge in 2022.

The chief concern I would have is that plaintiffs before suspected the commission had shoved Black residents out of a District 1 election up for vote in 2020 and packed them into District 2, where no election would be held until 2022. This meant a reliable Democratic voting bloc lost their vote in a race where many felt there was a good shot to elect the first Democratic county commissioner in decades. To top it all off, one of the residents moved happened to be former Sarasota Mayor Fredd Atkins, a Democrat who had filed for the seat and a Black candidate.

But ultimately courts couldn’t accept that racial animus played a principle role in the decision. Looking at the process in isolation, that’s a hard case to make. Sure, there’s the suspicious timing of redistricting right after single-member districts went into effect and right before the once-a-decade Census took place, but that proves tomfoolery, not racial discrimination. After all, lots of residents ended up temporarily disenfranchised by being moved into districts that weren’t voting in commissioners in November. Besides, you only get to vote for one commissioner these days and voters would have their chance in two years.

The bottom line is redistricting is a brutal, outwardly political process . At the local level, there’s not much check on basic fairness with a process so innately unfair as letting incumbent county commissioners approve their own political boundaries. Proving motives extended  into the realm of racial discrimination proved too big a lift.

So what if it happens again?

Let’s lay out the obvious fear critics of this ugly process have. What if county commissioners once again kick a neighborhood of Black voters out of a jurisdiction ready to vote next election and into one that doesn’t vote until 2024? Those voters would go six years without an opportunity to vote for a county commissioner. That the Census only verifies the population estimates used by the county last time proved so far off makes defending them that much harder.

While many neighborhoods were impacted by the 2019 redistricting, surely far fewer will be similarly affected by 2021’s. It’s those voters affected twice in a row who will have a case to make they have been treated unfairly. I’m no lawyer, but if a disproportionate number belong to a racial minority, that seems an easy complaint to write.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ MEDIA. 

Census estimates courtesy Sarasota County.

[Higher Education]  Customized Career Coaching Helps Students Succeed
Dr. Patricia Okker

When it comes to career coaching and preparation, New College of Florida is all business.

We don’t wait to equip our students with the tools they need to thrive in the real world; we start working with them one-on-one as soon as they enroll. And when they arrive on campus, they find that a solid foundation for career success is built right into their academic experience.

It’s an incredible approach—unlike anything I’ve ever seen during my decades-worth of work in higher education.

So, you may be asking: What’s our secret? Well, since I became president of New College in July, I’ve done everything I can to make our approach to career education less of a secret.

First, every student at New College is paired with a career coach. We know that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for education, nor does it work for career preparation. By ensuring that each student has a career coach, we can provide the robust attention that career education deserves.

Second, a career focus is fully integrated into the academic program at New College. Our first-year seminars combine academic rigor with career exploration. Community leaders and alumni serve as professional mentors to our students, helping them hone the skills they need to flourish in every career sector. And we aim to have 100 percent of our students pursuing at least one internship for academic credit before they graduate.

We would be doing a disservice to our students if we didn’t give them every boost they deserve before they head out into the professional world—especially during an era of economic uncertainty. At New College, we nurture intellectual curiosity while giving students the practical experience to fulfill their dreams for the future.

And we do this while keeping higher education affordable. While many of our academic peers are private institutions (costing upwards of $75,000), New College is a public honors college—and our in-state tuition and fees (including room and board) hover right around $17,000. Our average net cost is approximately $6,000. This means that nearly 60 percent of our students graduate with zero debt (well above the national average of 42 percent), which gives them the financial freedom to pursue their big career ambitions.

After a decade or more in the workforce, our graduates earn a median salary of $106,300—the second-highest median salary among state universities in Florida.

Since 2019, student engagement with career education and services at New College has increased by 275 percent, and employer engagement has gone up by more than 1,000 percent. Our students just can’t get enough of our career resources, and we are thrilled to provide them.

Last academic year, 177 employers and graduate schools recruited students on campus through virtual services and fairs, and thousands more recruited through job postings in Handshake designed specifically for New College students. We also have active relationships with more than 7,000 professional organizations.

Our objective at New College is to make career pathways evident for students no matter what they choose to study—knowing that their skills will be transferable to numerous industries (not just one).

We point students toward professional internships and community engagement opportunities, like the Sarasota-Manatee Arts & Humanities Internship Program (a Mellon Foundation-funded initiative that allows students to pursue paid internships locally in areas like web development and youth outreach).

Also, New College is situated on the beautiful bayfront, so students can study red tide and water quality (conducting graduate-level research as undergraduates) without ever leaving campus.

New College attracts students who are bright, driven and ready to go places. We aim to give them everything they need to get there.

Patricia Okker, Ph.D. is the president of New College of Florida. 



[SOON]  PERFORMANCE: McCurdy's Comedy Theatre & Humor Institute: Bob Zany , October 7 – October 9, 7pm, 6:30pm, and 8:50pm

Bob Zany will perform on Thursday, October 7 at 7pm, Friday, October 8 at 6:30pm, Friday, October 8 at 8:50pm, Saturday, October 9 at 6:30pm, and Saturday, October 9 at 8:50pm. Rated AS. Tickets are $25. Bob has appeared on over a thousand national T.V. shows, from The Tonight Show to a seventeen-year stint appearing on and co-hosting The Jerry Lewis Telethon. He appeared on Showtime in Billy Gardell’s Road Dogs+ film credits include Joe Dirt with David Spade+ The Informant playing Matt Damon’s attorney.

[SOON]  GALA: Annual Fundraiser at Waterworks Sarasota , October 9

Save the date for Sarasota Contemporary Dance's 16th Main Stage Season "GRIT" is a testament to the company's passion, purpose, and perseverance. After surviving and celebrating its landmark 15th season through a global pandemic, SCD is returning to the stage with greater conviction than ever before in its responsibility to progress contemporary dance in Sarasota. Tickets and subscriptions will become available soon. The fundraiser will be held to kick off the season at Waterworks Sarasota.

Sarasota Contemporary Dance , 1005 N Orange Ave., Sarasota

[SOON]  FILM: The Ringling: On Screen: Invisible History: Middle Florida's Hidden Roots , October 9, 6:30pm

A documentary film by Valerie Scoon, Professor and Filmmaker in Residence, FSU College of Motion Picture Arts. The film sheds light on the invisible history of plantations and the enslaved in North Florida through a visually compelling story that explores the history of a people who contributed so much to what the region is today. Valerie Scoon will provide a talk back directly following the film. Valerie Scoon literally came to Tallahassee from Hollywood. She has been with the Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts since 2003 and is central to the film school’s longstanding success. Ms. Scoon teaches screenwriting, producing and documentaries. Her work has resulted in many of our Student Emmys, Oscar nominations and entry into innumerable film festivals. Most recently, Ms. Scoon has exhibited her own documentary filmmaking skills by practicing what she teaches. Her documentary “Daring Women Doctors: Physicians in the 19th Century” recounts the history of America’s first female physicians and was aired nationwide on PBS in 2020. More recently her timely documentary “Invisible History: Middle Florida’s Hidden Roots” is also being aired nationwide on public television in 2021. This On Screen will show on October 9 at 6:30pm at Historic Asolo Theater.

[SOON]  SCIENCE AND NATURE: Selby Gardens: The Orchid Show 2021: Aerialists from the Tree Top to the Big Top , October 9 – November 28, 10am-5pm

Selby Gardens’ annual Orchid Show, from October 9 to November 28, brings together two of Sarasota, Florida’s most renowned legacies —orchids and the circus. Presented in collaboration with the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art (The Ringling), The Orchid Show 2021: Aerialists from the Tree Top to the Big Top!, is presented by Better-Gro®, celebrates the breathtaking beauty of orchids in tree-top canopies high above the forest floor with the artistry and spectacle of the circus, particularly the aerialists who perform extraordinary feats of human ability high above captivated crowds. Pairing astonishing air plants with amazing aerial acts enables a fascinating exploration of the intersection of nature and entertainment. The show is deeply rooted in Selby Gardens’ status as possessing the world’s best scientifically documented collection of orchids. As always, the Orchid Show highlights the diversity and richness of the Orchidaceae family, one of the largest families of flowering plants on earth. The synergy with Sarasota’s extensive circus history fortifies the theme of this year’s show. Once the winter quarters of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the city remains the home of many circus performers and their families. In addition to The Ringling, housing the finest circus collections in existence, Sarasota is home to the Circus Arts Conservatory and associated Sailor Circus Academy, the oldest youth circus in America.

[SOON]  PERFORMANCE: Venice Theatre: Almost, Maine , September 24 – October 10, Varies.

Spend a magical evening in the remote, mythical town of Almost, Maine where the residents find themselves falling in and out of love in unexpected and comical ways. Almost, Maine By John Cariani will play at the Venice Theatre from September 24 to October 10.

[SOON]  PERFORMANCE: Venice Theatre: The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Penny Dreadful , September 24 – October 10, Varies.

This definitive spoof of Gothic melodramas is a quick-change marathon in which two actors play all the roles. A sympathetic werewolf, a vampire, and an Egyptian princess take you from the moors of England to Egypt and back again in this campy masterpiece. The Mystery of Irma Vep By Charles Ludlam will show from September 24 to October 10 at the Venice Theatre.

[SOON]  MUSIC: Sarasota Orchestra: Chamber Soirees: Shall We Dance? , October 10, 4pm

From the ballet to the ballroom, music that will make you want to move on Sunday, October 10 at 4pm at Holley Hall. Inspired by Elizabeth Hobbs's Slow Dancing on the Highway: the Trip North. This program consists of Haydn String Quartet Op. 33, No. 2 "The Joke," Marquez Danza de mediodia, Quinn Mason String Quartet No. 2, and Piazzolla L'Histoire du Tango.

SRQ Media Group

SRQ DAILY is produced by SRQ | The Magazine. Note: The views and opinions expressed in the Saturday Perspectives Edition and in the Letters department of SRQ DAILY are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by SRQ Media. Senior Editor Jacob Ogles edits the Saturday Perspective Edition, Letters and Guest Contributor columns.In the CocoTele department, SRQ DAILY is providing excerpts from news releases as a public service. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by SRQ DAILY. The views expressed by individuals are their own and their appearance in this section does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. For rates on SRQ DAILY banner advertising and sponsored content opportunities, please contact Ashley Ryan Cannon at 941-365-7702 x211 or via email

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