New College of California

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New College of California
New College of California logo.png
MottoEducation for a Just, Sacred, and Sustainable World
TypePrivate College
United States
Website (informational only)

New College of California was a college founded in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1971 by former Gonzaga University President, Father John Leary. It ceased operations in early 2008.[1][2][3]

New College's main campus was housed in several buildings in the Mission District in San Francisco. The offices at 777 Valencia, and companion buildings across the street, were home to its Humanities-based programs, including the Humanities BA, Mathematics, Poetics, Writing and Consciousness, Media Studies, Graduate Psychology, Experimental Performance Institute, as well as a broadcast studio and administration offices. New College of California School of Law was located at 50 Fell Street in the city's Civic Center. The North Bay Campus in Culture Ecology and Sustainable was housed in Santa Rosa, California, in a building owned by the Arlene Francis Foundation, a private foundation run by Peter Gabel, former president of New College and Arlene Francis's son. The Science and Math Institute classes were held at the Southern California University of Health Sciences in Whittier, California, within 12 miles (19 km) of downtown Los Angeles.

WASC and college governance[edit]

This concentration of power in the hands of a small group—characterized by the absence of democratic governing structures and the lack of effective oversight by the Board—was an important factor in the Western Association of Schools and Colleges', or WASC's, decisions to impose sanctions on the college through much of the school's history. WASC actions and criticism periodically resulted in short-lived reforms that were invariably dismantled by the administration after the accrediting agency eased its scrutiny—a pattern that was repeated several times during the school's history. The pattern itself was criticized by WASC when it sanctioned the college in July 2007, months prior to the revocation of accreditation.

Reform efforts by campus groups[edit]

Throughout the college's history, groups of faculty, students, alumni and staff mounted challenges to the school's autocratic governance systems, but these efforts failed to achieve lasting change. Numerous campaigns by faculty groups seeking democratic reform, often based in specific academic programs, had no more than limited, short-term influence. Unionization by the staff and some faculty—initially by the college's staff and the Law School core faculty in 1996, followed by the Humanities BA and Poetics MA faculties several years later—led to modest economic gains, but had no significant influence on college governance. Several waves of student organizing over the course of the college's history, addressing a variety of issues at different times, were consistent in seeking a greater voice for students in college governance. Student efforts, which sometimes included complaints to WASC, were also unable to achieve lasting change.

When WASC imposed severe sanctions against the college in July 2007, the core faculty tried to move the school toward greater democracy and accountability by forming a college-wide Faculty Council, an effort that drew praise from the accrediting agency. WASC credited the Faculty Council and the school's new academic leadership for making improvements in the academic affairs of the college. Adjunct faculty, students and alumni also formed new organizations seeking democratic change.

In the end, the school's financial collapse undermined possibilities of democratic reform—and sealed the fate of the college. New College lost its accreditation in February 2008 and was declared "closed" by the California Department of Education effective December 20, 2007.

Changes in governance to comply with WASC standards[edit]

During the week of July 16, 2007, New College held a school-wide faculty meeting. The full-time faculty formed a Core Faculty Council, which met and gave a vote of no confidence in President Martin Hamilton. The part-time faculty formed an Adjunct Faculty Council, and the students formed a Student Council. Alumni and alumnae decided to form an Independent Alumni/ae Association. On August 5, 2007, President Martin Hamilton resigned.[4]

Revocation of accreditation and financial collapse[edit]

In August 2007, Luis Molina, a former Board member with no other experience in leading educational institutions, was made Acting President of the college. Expectations that the Board would hire a new Interim President never materialized. Francisco Leite, a former university administrator from Brazil who Martin Hamilton met while contracting an exchange program with UNAES, became Chief Financial Officer. Though initially Martin Hamilton remained on the Board after he was forced to resign as President, he, along with Peter Gabel, was ultimately forced out. The interim administrators hired an educational consultant and team (including director of financial aid and registrar), whose efforts drew praise from the accrediting body and the faculty, to help bring the college into compliance with accreditation standards of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

In October 2007, without any notice, the administration stopped paying faculty and staff. Faculty continued teaching out the semester without pay.[5] Law School faculty continued teaching through the spring semester based on false promises that pay would be forthcoming at the start of the semester. The College presently owes its faculty and staff millions of dollars in back pay. In July 2008, the college acknowledged its debts in agreements it signed to settle wage claim disputes filed with the Department of Industrial Relations. A number of creditors of the college have prevailed in lawsuits.

Accreditation was revoked in February 2008 by WASC for numerous violations, including lack of proper governing structure, failure to keep proper student records, and lack of oversight by the Board.[6][7] WASC is the accrediting body for colleges and universities in California.

At the end of 2007, after discovering improprieties in the financial aid office, the Department of Education placed the college on heightened cash monitoring which meant that federal financial aid funds would only be disbursed after New College's paperwork passed a review. The financial aid staff hired by Molina and Leite were unable to fix the files, which were in complete disarray, to conform to DOE standards, and DOE investigation also revealed that the school failed to keep required records and could not account for large amounts of federal financial aid funds. As a result, DOE revoked New College's eligibility to receive federal financial aid funds.

Students of the New College of California School of Law transferred to John F. Kennedy University Law School in April 2008.[8]

The North Bay Campus' Green MBA moved to Dominican University of California in March 2007.[9]

Notable people[edit]



  • Harry Britt, gay political activist and former Supervisor for San Francisco, California. Britt also directed the Weekend BA Degree Completion Program.
  • Daniel Cassidy, author, filmmaker, and founder and codirector of the Irish Studies Program.
  • Robert Duncan, founding member of the New College Poetics program.
  • Peter Gabel, Ph.D., was a law professor at New College of California's Law School for 30 years, and served as President for 20 years.
  • Richard Heinberg, scholar on such topics as Peak Oil and Transition strategies, served as core faculty in the North Bay Campus' BA program in Culture, Ecology, and Sustainable Communities.
  • David Meltzer, poet and musician of the Beat Generation and the San Francisco Renaissance, taught in the Poetics Program.[10]
  • Adam Clay Thompson, winner of the George Polk Award for Local Reporting[11] for his series Forgotten City about San Francisco's public housing, and instructor in the Media Studies Graduate Program.


  1. ^ "Is New College Dying?". SF Bay Guardian. Retrieved 2007-12-18.
  2. ^ "Struggling New College may close one campus". SF Business Times. Archived from the original on 2008-05-27. Retrieved 2007-12-21.
  3. ^ "New College of California (Announcements)". WASC Senior. Retrieved 2008-04-10.
  4. ^ King, John (2007-08-05). "Embattled school's president resigns". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  5. ^ Clark, Leilani (2008-03-05). "School for Scandal". North Bay Bohemian. Metro Newspapers. Retrieved 2008-04-10.
  6. ^ "New College of Weirdness". SF Weekly. Retrieved 2007-09-29.
  7. ^ "Accreditation Terminated" (PDF). WASC. Retrieved 2008-02-26.[dead link]
  8. ^ Wadsworth, Jennifer (2008-03-19). "SF School's Misfortune May Benefit East Bay University". East Bay Express. Archived from the original on 2008-04-19. Retrieved 2008-11-20.
  9. ^ " » Blog Archive Dominican University of California Takes Green MBA Mainstream. |". Retrieved 2017-10-23.
  10. ^ "Biography of David Meltzer". City Lights.
  11. ^ "The George Polk Awards for Journalism". The Nation Fund. 2005. Retrieved 2018-11-12.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°45′38″N 122°25′16″W / 37.7606°N 122.4212°W / 37.7606; -122.4212