New College Sues Bard College Over Alt Effort

Todays News

An overhaul of New College has led to roughly a third of faculty leaving the institution. But with an Alt New College effort online, are some of those previously affiliated with the school hurting the brand of the institution they left behind?

New College of Florida on Friday issued a cease-and-desist letter to Bard College, demanding it stop branding a new venture at AltNewCollege.org.

“It has recently been brought to our attention that your organization is making, or inducing others to make, unauthorized use of our client’s ‘NEW COLLEGE’ mark in commerce, and that you are also offering educational services under the confusingly similar ‘ALT NEW COLLEGE’ mark,” attorney John Malloy wrote in a letter to Bard College. “It is this law firm’s considered opinion that the unauthorized use of the ‘NEW COLLEGE’ mark and the confusingly similar ‘ALT NEW COLLEGE’ mark constitute trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws.”

Bard College, a private New York school, announced the launch of Alt New College and offered its first free webcast on Sept. 18, livestreaming a conversation with Russian American journalist Masha Gessen and University of California, Berkeley professor Judith Butler about recent attacks on Gender Studies academia. It was introduced by Libby Harrity, a former New College student forced to transfer to Hampshire College after allegedly spitting on New College trustee Chris Rufo.

Bard is working on the new effort in part with former professors at New College. A website even uses an empty set, a former unofficial mascot of the school, as the logo for the effort. In a press release announcing the effort, former New College Gender Studies Professor Nick Clarkson provided a statement critical of his former employers at New College and the state university system.

“Florida has passed a horrifying slate of anti-trans laws in 2023, and New College's new administrators have ensured that New College will no longer be a refuge from state violence,” Clarkson said. “Canceling the Gender Studies Program is an attempt by the trustees to suppress feminist, queer and trans knowledge. I'm excited to see gender studies teach-ins and events pop up to resist their attempts to silence us."

Notably, Gov. Ron DeSantis this year signed a state law dropping gender studies courses from the curriculum at any public institution, including all of Florida’s state universities and colleges. New College trustees dropped the course in accordance with that law.

New College leaders say Bard College is effectively co-opting the Sarasota institution’s decades-old brand.

“Imitation is the best form of flattery,” said New College communications director Nate March, “but in this case it’s highly illegal.”

The cease-and-desist letter screencaps parts of the Alt New College website and marketing material advertising “New College News” and a commitment to “Supporting the academic freedom & founding vision of New College. One section of the site says the institution’s “courses and lectures are being developed in partnership with the New College community,” mentioning that association ahead of Bard College.

“There can be no dispute that these actions have been willful, and were carried out in an effort to trade off the goodwill associated with New College’s marks and/or to cause confusion,” the cease-and-desist letter reads. “Therefore, statutory damages, triple damages, punitive damages, a disgorgement of profits, and attorneys’ fees are inescapable under these circumstances.”

The attorneys demand Bard College stop using the branding and transfer control of the altnewcollege.org web domain to the Sarasota university instead.

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