Richard Corcoran Named Interim Dean of New College in Sarasota

The whirlwind unleashed by Gov. Ron DeSantis is rapidly reshaping the New College of Florida, but the president Tuesday amid a broad leadership overhaul that limited a crucial few hours for the Sarasota school. was dismissed, speeding up.

Members of the new board, appointed by DeSantis earlier this month, replace university president Patricia Okker with former Republican House Speaker and School Commissioner Richard Corcoran, appoint DeSantis’ appointee as the new board chairman, and the school’s new general. moved to hire a former Republican lawmaker. It initiated the process of eliminating programs aimed at increasing diversity, equity and inclusion at universities, spurring a dramatic conservative cultural shift.

Corcoran is keenly involved in the governor’s educational culture war battle, and is quick to lead his experiment in overhauling public universities to match his conservative approach to higher education. Since he cannot take over as president, the university administrator will fill that role until then.

The board also elected DeSantis’ appointee Debra Jenks as the new chairman and negotiated with Bill Galvano to select a former GOP state senator from Bradenton to become the university’s new general counsel. Did.

The change ensures university officials are in sync with DeSantis’ education agenda, he reiterated at a press conference in Bradenton on Tuesday.

DeSantis criticized the diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives of Florida’s universities, especially New College. He also accused New College of teaching theories that have become the focus of major conservative debates in recent years, such as critical race theory (CRT) and gender theory.

“The mission was less about what a liberal arts education should be and more about the ideologies of DEI, CRT, and gender,” DeSantis said of New College.

Matthew Spalding, dean of conservative Christian Hillsdale College in Michigan and a trustee appointed by DeSantis to serve at New College, said the school had a “full commitment” to what the governor and Congress wanted to achieve. “Leadership is needed,” he said. .

Hillsdale has been endorsed by the DeSantis administration as a model for New Colleges.

Holding back tears, an emotional Ocker said he could not follow “this new order, which is a hostile takeover and a dramatic change in mission.” but urged her to fight for her job. Okker apologized for disappointing them.

“I believe the president needs to stand by her word when he asks donors to donate,” she said. You can’t go ahead and ask me to claim that we’re indoctrinated here. I don’t believe that.”

The governor and several of his New College Board of Governors spoke extensively about liberal indoctrination in higher education.

After negotiating a contract amendment that would allow him to take a year of paid leave and return to college as a professor, Okker was fired without cause by the board.

Ocker apparently negotiated an agreement after being told there were plans to fire her.

“I have been informed that this university has new assignments and plans include terminating my employment as president. That is my understanding,” she said at the meeting.

The crowd booed.

It was not clear if a majority of the board would be ready to fire Okker if she expressed interest in continuing the job. I said I didn’t know.

“Who’s plan?” Ryan Anderson, a new board member appointed last week by the Florida board, said, “I didn’t know of any plans.”

Among those eager for a new president was Christopher Ruffo, appointed by DeSantis and joining him at a press conference in Bradenton before the board meeting.

“I think new leadership is expected, and I think it makes sense,” Rufo said.

Spalding later said he recommended Corcoran for interim president and talked about the job. After the meeting, he refused to disclose how his conversation with Corcoran went, and asked in writing.

Corcoran holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Leo University and a law degree from Regent University in Virginia. He won a seat in Congress in his 2010, and from 2016 he served as chairman until 2018, a conservative agitator named by DeSantis as his first educational secretary.

Corcoran worked to ban critical racial theories and conceal orders from public schools. He currently serves on the state board of directors that oversees Florida’s college system and previously applied for president of Florida State University.

Corcoran’s appointment as interim president of New College was confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times by a DeSantis spokesperson early Tuesday, before the board discussed Ocker’s term.

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The new college Chief of Staff, Brad Thiessen, will serve as interim president until Corcoran takes over.

About 150 people packed the university’s Sudakov Conference Center to witness the change of leadership. The small venue was full. Those who did not enter were directed to the overflow area.

The meeting, which lasted just under four hours, began with a public comment section that included 25 speakers. Almost all of them criticized the changes at New College.

Betsy Braden, a parent of a transgender New College student, said the school was “a haven for students who decided they didn’t necessarily fit in other schools, and they have done an incredible job of embracing their differences and moving forward.” It shows the courage of

“Why are you taking this from us?” she asked.

Eliana Salzauer, another parent of a New College student, told the board her son is researching “the very awakening subject of quantitative economics.”

“It’s so boring. He’s not awake. I’m pretty awake, so I’m very disappointed.”

Salzauer urged other parents to pay attention, saying DeSantis has “national ambitions” and “what happens at New College is happening at your campus next.” rice field.

Criticism and frequent heckling by the audience irritated new board member Marc Bauerlein.

“The denunciation tells us that something is wrong here. This is not how you deal with people who actually have good intentions in educating America’s youth.” We can, but the attacks, the slurs and the insults show that the campus culture needs to change radically, and it should have happened long ago.”

Before the board meeting, about 200 people took part in a campus demonstration against the changes taking place at New College. Among the speakers was New College alumnus and survivor of the 2018 Parkland school shooting, X Gonzalez.

Gonzalez, a prominent advocate against gun violence with 1.3 million Twitter followers, said, “This means no matter how many people get hurt, get fired, or lose this place as a home. “It’s just a transparent attempt to get political points,” he said.

Herald-Tribune staff writers Stephen Walker and Gabriela Szymanowska contributed to this article. Richard Corcoran Named Interim Dean of New College in Sarasota

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