HOST: On Sept. 2, New College’s vice president of communications, Ryan Terry, was fired after just eight weeks. Richard Corcoran booted his communications chief a day before the Board of Trustees voted in favor of Corcoran becoming New College’s permanent president. Aria Lockman, a reporter for The Catalyst – the student newspaper at New College – had a one-hour sit down with Terry. We appreciate the Catalyst’s sharing their exclusive, and Aria Lockman’s report for WSLR. Terry first describes his firing.
Ryan Terry: It happened over the phone, it was actually at a hotel in Orlando, because my sister came down from South Carolina and some other friends to do Halloween Horror Nights. And so, I wasn’t even at my house, I was at a hotel in Orlando, and I got a phone call very early Monday morning and I was told it’s not working out and that my employment was ending, and that I would be provided with four weeks’ severance pay, plus any of my approved vacation leave. That was it. When I asked for more of an elaboration, an explanation, it was just reiterated that they’re not required to give a reason. I had just all of a sudden become this pariah, and it was so very strange—it was very surreal, just how quick it was and how it was.
Aria Lockman: Ryan Terry’s background in communications in higher education gave him the experience he needed to refine the Office of Communications and Marketing of New College. And his previous work for the state government gave him the connections to get hired.
RT: It was quite the whirlwind. I may have only been there for eight weeks, but I think I have enough experiences to last eight months or maybe eight years. I’d like to think that my experience there has left a very positive impact. I didn’t want to go off of just what I had heard in the news—I went into this school with an open mind.
So, I start off very optimistic and then, you know, towards the end of my time there, which as we know was very brief, I learned how toxic it really is, and it’s sad because I feel that there’s so much great potential.
AL: Terry went on to explain his time at New College. Despite his attempt to remain unbiased at the college, he soon began to realize that things were not as they seemed.
RT: It’s not a political campaign. Unfortunately, I came to realize that New College and how it’s being run does feel like an extension of the DeSantis campaign, and it’s troubling because it’s a school and it should be treated as a school.
But you don’t run a school like you run a campaign. You don’t run a school like you run a law firm. You don’t run a school like you run a lobbyist office.
AL: Terry encouraged Corcoran to take into consideration the students’, faculty’s and the community’s views when making decisions.
RT: When I make decisions, I look at the perception. Unfortunately, the decisions that are made at the school in which the optics, or the perception, are not considered.
AL: According to the campus website, New College prides itself on being a place where “free thinkers, risk takers and trail blazers” come to thrive.
RT: The school may state in public and in interviews that it’s a place of freedom of expression, freedom of speech, would be the Number One place of freedom of expression, freedom of speech—the actions don’t back that up. I consider that a part of my experience because, I mean my eyes were truly opened to, to what was really going on. And I suppose you can boil it all down to, it’s not being treated as a school, it is being treated as an arm of the DeSantis presidential campaign.
AL: Terry’s goal was to create more positive media by organizing events on campus. He suggested painting public murals and pumpkin carving contests, in order to boost student morale. However, these ideas were rejected.
RT: I recognize that the campus is divided. Administration can say it’s not divided, other people can say it’s not divided all they want, it doesn’t change the fact that it is. Just because you believe something doesn’t make it true. In my opinion, we need to acknowledge that this is a fractured campus. And so, once we can acknowledge that, it’s like the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have a problem. We need to admit that we have a problem. So what can we do to bring students and faculty and staff together, in a way that could very well garner organic, positive stories.
I know that’s not what we want, no school wants a divided campus because a house divided against itself will fall. Nobody wants it but the fact is, there’s Null set students and there are Banyan students. The Null set students perceive all the changes that have come down through the pipe at the school since January, using a bank account as an analogy, the perception is, these are all withdrawals. Every single change that comes down the pipeline is a withdrawal.
AL: Terry is now moving on. He is spending his time searching for jobs and volunteering for a ministry that provides clothing and toiletries to the homeless of downtown Tampa. This is something he has done for years but had to give up when he took the position at New College.
RT: It happened, and so I’m going to use it as a learning opportunity. I’ve got a great title on my resume now, although it was only two months, but hey – I’ve got a great story that goes along with it. I imagine it is an experience that will benefit me in the future, but I do feel that how it was handled was unprofessional.
This is the result of being different, this is the result of not fitting into the mold that everyone is made to fit in. And I’ve never been one to fit into any singular mold—march to the beat of my own drum and I will continue to do that.
AL: The Catalyst asked Corcoran for a comment. Instead, we received a statement via email from Nathan March, the director of Communications & Marketing and Athletics Public Information Officer.
“Ryan Terry is no longer employed at New College,” the email said. “While we cannot comment on personnel matters, I can assure you that Ryan was an at-will employee, serving under the administration’s supervision, as stated in NCF Regulation 3-4011. An employee who did not work out during the first 60 days in their new role is not uncommon. New College continues to make rapid progress toward restoring its stature among America’s best liberal arts institutions.”
This has been Aria Lockman, reporting for The Catalyst.
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Friday, December 8, 2023
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