Former New College trustee Mary Ruiz, right, listens as former President Patricia Okker, left, addresses faculty and students moments before her termination on Tuesday, Jan 31, 2023. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Mary Ruiz, a New College of Florida alum who served on the school’s board of trustees since Oct. 2019, has resigned from her position.

Ruiz was appointed to the New College board of trustees by the Florida State University System Board of Governors and predated the six trustees appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in January. She was eligible to stay in her role until Jan. 2026, according to the school’s website.

Those appointed recently, including conservative activist Christopher Rufo, have led efforts to redirect the once left-leaning liberal arts school. Among the new trustees’ first actions was to fire then-President Patricia Okker and install former State House Speaker Richard Corcoran as interim President.

Ruiz’s departure comes one day after Corcoran was announced as one of three finalists for the permanent position.

Amy Reid, the faculty representative on the board of trustees, told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that Ruiz’s departure was a “big loss,” adding that “she’s been one of the most active proponents of New College’s academic mission.”

In her letter, Ruiz thanked the Board of Governors for their confidence in her and expressed her “pleasure to support Florida as the top-ranked state university system and New College as the fifth-ranked public liberal arts college in the United States.” The letter was posted on the website of NCF Freedom, an organization in Sarasota that was formed to defend New College.

Ruiz has frequently opposed the DeSantis-appointed block of trustees on academic and governance issues. In January, Ruiz abstained from the board’s 9-3 decision to fire Okker. In April, she was one of just four trustees who voted in favor of approving tenure for five faculty members, each of whom had received a recommendation for tenure from the previous administration prior to Corcoran’s intervention.

Corcoran has overseen a dramatic reorientation of school culture. In February, school officials dissolved the office of diversity and inclusion and fired the school’s chief diversity officer. The school has also launched a new athletics program and recruited over 100 student athletes.

Buoyed by the influx of student athletes, New College reached record new enrollment for the 2023-24 school year, according to Corcoran. At the same time, the school has lost approximately one-third of faculty in the past year, leaving some returning students worried that required courses may not be offered in the fall.

Ian Hodgson is an education data reporter at the Tampa Bay Times, working in partnership with Open Campus.

Education data reporter for The Tampa Bay Times in partnership with Open Campus.