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SRQ DAILY Nov 25, 2023

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"Working towards sustainable and renewable options can provide educational opportunities for students."

- Dr. Larry Thompson, Ringling College of Art & Design

[Under The Hood]  Take the Money and Run
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

It wasn’t long ago spending levels at New College of Florida drew critique in Tallahassee. Now, lawmakers seem eager to throw money at the Sarasota university. The reason, ironically, is Gov. Ron DeSantis’  war on a higher education system that elevated the middle class kid from Dunedin into a contender for President.

Plenty of ink has been spilled on the hypocrisy of a Harvard- and Yale-educated pol undermining the “elitists” who provided so much for him. His deconstruction/reconstruction of New College in his own desired image served as poster child for that. Unfortunately, this resulted in an exodus of talent, both in faculty and the student body and a significant blow in prestige a think tank and baseball team won’t quickly fix.

But trustees, especially those who predate the board’s ideological thrust, have acted appropriately pragmatic about this “transformation.” While the academic world rolls its eyes or grows apoplectic about a $400 million budget proposed by New College President Richard Corcoran, those who care about the school’s future would be wise to think long-term.

Going from an institution state lawmakers treated as an albatross to becoming a symbol for DeSantis’ education agenda has its perks. Recall the war in Tallahassee against New College did not start this year. A few years ago, state lawmakers criticized the high per-pupil spending at the school, where it cost more to produce a four-year degree than any school in Florida. Back then, the Legislature batted around the idea of folding New College into another major institution. Then-House Speaker Jose Oliva publicly lobbied for the idea; Corcoran was notably House Speaker immediately before Oliva and served as the fiscally hawkish lawmaker's mentor.

But behind the scenes, then-Senate President Bill Galvano, a Bradenton lawmaker, had also quietly pushed for such a change, if only as threat so New College finally became serious about student recruitment. Galvano had grown tired of fighting for years to stop-gap the budget at the tiny school as its enrollment dwindled below 800 students. But the idea died in the Senate, where Sen. Joe Gruters, a Galvano ally, pushed back against any consolidation plan.

Today, Galvano serves as New College’s general counsel. Gruters’ wife, Sydney Gruters, runs the New College Foundation. Oliva serves on Florida’s Board of Governors, which thus far has approved of every change at New College this year (and in an oft-overlooked move named one of the trustees seen as part of the DeSantis takeover). And Corcoran, with a base salary of $699,000 a year, runs the university.

Corcoran’s massive budget generated a fresh round of headlines nationwide. Many have pointed out this will balloon per student spending to six figures a pupil, an amount exponentially higher than the spending that once made Tallahassee leaders question if the school should be reduced to a satellite campus for another institution.

Clearly, a conservative makeover at the school doesn’t include acting fiscally conservative. But leaving the budget talks aside, the school boasts more political capital than ever. And while high salaries and accusations of grifting earn some attention, there’s infrastructure improvements already on the way.

New College just hired Sweet Sparkman as the architect to rebuild the legendary I.M Pei dorms on campus. The side story to low enrollment has been that many dorms became unlivable through neglect, and many long-time students this year have been moved into hotels. The campus couldn’t house students if it had hit enrollment targets before.

That problem is being fixed.

I’ve noted before the tenure of conservative trustees will be temporary. And time is winding down on DeSantis’ term as Governor. But capital improvements are forever.

Those who care about New College’s long-term future might want to take the immortal advice on the Steve Miller Band. Take the money and run.

Jacob Ogles is senior contributing editor for SRQ MEDIA. 

Rendering courtesy Sweet Sparkman: Proposal for

[Higher Education]  Getting Creative About Resiliency
Dr. Larry Thompson, lthompso@ringling.edu

At the risk of speaking too soon, it seems we have made it through another hurricane season unscathed, despite forecasts predicting a more active season than ever before. Especially in Florida, environmental and sustainability issues, topics surrounding climate change and “going green” are ever present and highly debated. Everyone from politicians to corporations to small businesses to the average homeowner are faced with daily decisions that directly result in positive or negative outcomes for the environment. College campuses are no different. No matter what side of the fence you sit on, these are certainly important issues to pay attention to and address.

I firmly believe college campuses — especially one such as Ringling College of Art and Design’s, situated on 60-plus acres of natural Florida land just a stone’s throw from Sarasota Bay — have a responsibility to align as much as possible with broader environmental goals. Working towards sustainable and renewable options can provide educational opportunities for students, contribute to significant financial savings for the institution, and can even contribute to student and employee health and wellbeing. But the most important benefit is to our natural environment.  

As institutions of higher education, significant employers and community leaders, colleges have a two-fold obligation to set an example for the wider community. Focusing efforts around energy-efficient buildings, water-saving measures, solar power, recycling programs and waste reduction efforts are not just good for the environment; they can also often save the institution money in the long run, therefore freeing up funds for other educational purposes. At Ringling College, every new building on the campus has the goal of obtaining LEED Certification. In fact, many of the existing buildings maintain this certification, such as the Larry R. Thompson Academic Center, Goldstein Library, the Basch Visual Arts Center, Bridge Apartments and Greensboro Hall and new dining facility Cunniffe Commons. These ratings require verification of green features, sustainable design and construction, resource-efficiency and even the measure of air and water quality. 

Supporting biodiversity is important as well. A few years ago, Ringling College’s campus was recognized for its exceptional landscaping and we are on a mission to receive this accolade again. But it’s not just about recognition. The multiple green spaces on campus help to support local flora, fauna and wildlife, especially insects and birds. Arborists from Tree Campus USA will soon come to Ringling to rate our trees for size, health and quantity and to map them as part of a larger conservation project. Our landscaping team is even working on a native planting program, to help ensure we are planting responsibly and not introducing harmful or invasive species. What’s more is that in addition to the obvious environmental benefits, these spaces are scientifically proven to help support mental health and wellbeing for students and employees alike. 

One of our most prominent student-led organizations at Ringling College is the Green Ambassadors Club. These students promote and advocate for healthier and greener living on campus and help to create spaces for community members to explore how a more sustainable world can be built through art, design and creativity. This all links back to the College’s goal of producing graduates who are globally-minded citizens and ethical practitioners. In order to be prepared for the future, students must be engaged and aware of the interconnectedness of environmental, social and economic issues. 

Sustainability on college campuses should no longer be seen as an “add on.” It must be an essential pillar for creating a holistic educational experience that minimizes environmental impact and teaches students to be environmentally conscious and inclined. We are so fortunate to live where we do, with such natural beauty surrounding us. But as we have seen many times, and our neighbors to the south of us experienced so acutely last year, this beauty is neither permanent nor indestructible. Our environment is fragile; our ecosystem is unstable. There is much work to be done for us to counteract the damages we as humans bestowed upon the planet. I truly believe, however, if we all take responsibility and make conscious steps now toward more sustainable and creative solutions, there will still be hope for us yet.

Dr. Larry R. Thompson is president of Ringling College of Art and Design. 

Photo courtesy Ringling College: Ringling College's Greensboro Hall, a residence hall for incoming freshmen.

[SOON]  GRAB BAG: Sarasota Cars and Coffee at University Town Center , March 11 – December 9, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

This monthly gathering of car enthusiasts brings together automobile lovers from every walk of life, not to mention a wide array of spectacular cars. Bring your own vehicle (all makes and models are welcome) to show off, or check out the hundreds of cars on display. Each month, the event sponsors a different charity, and attendees are encouraged to donate $10 to benefit the charity. The event, occuring on the second Sunday of each month, will feature live music, complimentary coffee and more. To learn more, visit facebook.com/carsandcoffee941. Sarasota Cars and Coffee, The West District at University Town Center near Ford’s Garage, 295 N. Cattlemen Rd., Sarasota.

[SOON]  GRAB BAG: Fresh Harvest Farmers Market at Wellen Park , June 25 – December 29, 9 am to 1 pm

Visit Fresh Harvest, the newly launched weekly farmers market in Downtown Wellen. Fresh Harvest offers a selection of local goods from nearly 40 local vendors. Fresh Harvest takes place every Sunday in Downtown Wellen from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Attendees can peruse different vendor booths and stock up on a variety of goods. Vendors will offer a wide variety of locally grown and produced food, including herbs, spices, cut flowers, teas, canned and preserved fruits and vegetables, syrups, baked goods, pickled foods, fresh seafood, meats, poultry, eggs, milk and prepared food and beverages. A limited selection of craft vendors also participate in the farmers market. For a listing of participating vendors and more information on Fresh Harvest Farmers Market, visit wellenpark.com/events/fresh-harvest-farmers-market. Downtown Wellen, 19745 Wellen Park Blvd., Venice.

[SOON]  GRAB BAG: Geckos Grill and Pubs Trivia , July 1 – June 1, 7:30 pm

Geckos Grill & Pub’s Award-winning Trivia-Think While You Drink! If you love Trivia, join the fun at Geckos all year round. All Trivia starts at 7:30pm. We will have prizes, giveaways and specials plus the Geckos made-to-order fare, signature cocktails and hospitality you love. Monday trivia will be held at the Clark Road location in Palmer Crossing and on Tuesdays at the SR 64 location in Braden River Plaza. The SR 64 location will be taking a break from Trivia in October, but will start back up in April. On Wednesdays, trivia will take place at the Hillview Street location in Southside Village. www.GeckosGrill.com.

[SOON]  MUSIC: Jazz Thursdays , July 13 – December 14, 5:30 to 8 p.m.

Join Sarasota Art Museum for Jazz Thursdays featuring live jazz music, contemporary art, and sips and bites from Bistro. Hosted by the Jazz Club of Sarasota. Jazz Thursday happens on the second Thursday of each month, 5:30-8 p.m. Galleries, Bistro, and SHOP open. FREE for Members, $20 for Not-Yet Members.

[SOON]  PERFORMANCE: Sights and Sounds at Waterside Place , July 28 – May 31, 6 to 9 p.m.

Head out to Waterside Place for a rocking evening as part of the Lakewood Ranch Sights and Sounds Program. Enjoy a live concert in partnership with Easterseals and EveryoneRocks, featuring artists who are rocking their spectrum. This event is free and open to the public; there is limited seating at the Plaza, but attendees are welcome to bring their own seats. Food and beverages will be available from numerous Waterside Place merchants. For more information on shows, dates, and times, visit lakewoodranch.com/sights-sounds/. Waterside Place, 1560 Lakefront Dr., Sarasota.

[SOON]  MUSEUM: Working Conditions at The Ringling , August 26 – March 3, varied times

Explore labor through The Ringlings Working Conditions photography exhibit, running until March 3, 2024. The Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries radically changed the nature of human labor. That era is defined by a global shift from producing goods by hand to manufacturing by machines and technologies that emphasized efficiency. Working Conditions explores the myriad ways in which photographs have communicated ideas about labor since the nineteenth century through examples from The Ringlings photography permanent collection. For more information, visit ringling.org.

[SOON]  BUSINESS: Lets Connect at Oscura in Old Manatee , August 31 – December 26, 8:30-10am

Connect with local business owners at every Thursday at Oscura. Lets Connect is a community of collaborative business professionals from the Manatee and Sarasota County areas. RSVP on Eventbrite to attend, admission is free.

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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