The New College of Florida held its first board meeting since former Florida Education Commission Richard Corcoran was voted in as the interim president, as part of a statewide overhaul at the Liberal Arts College. I was there for his first public words in his new role and the board's first actions under his leadership, which included abolishing the school's diversity office.
Hours before the 1:00 pm board of trustee meeting began at the New College in Sarasota, the tension in the air on campus was thick, emotions were high, and there was extra security on hand at the front door, checking bags and conducting security-wand checks. For former Florida Education boss, Richard Corcoran, it marked his second day on the job.
The day began with hundreds of students gathered outside the conference center before the meeting and dozens who spoke publicly during the meeting. They protested his hiring as interim president of the college, the nearly $700k salary that came with it, and the school's new board of trustees — most of whom were appointed by Governor Desantis — in what students, parents, and staff who spoke publicly described as a "hostile conservative take-over."
One parent, Tracy Fero, says, "I didn't think as a taxpayer and business owner in Florida that I would ever be dismissed by so many arrogant, white male control folks and here we are."
When it was time for interim president Richard Corcoran to speak, he kept his words brief and started by thanking Governor Ron DeSantis. He then quickly moved to his immediate goals including student recruitment, filling key positions, making needed improvements on campus, and money. From securing more public funds in Tallahassee to raising more private dollars.
Corcoran said, "Between all of those things, in short, a student attraction that will hopefully take our enrollment to significant levels." As for the controversies surrounding his hiring and salary that comes with a "big man on campus" price tag, Corcoran offered no comment, refusing to take questions.
It came as no surprise, among the board's first actions under Corcoran's leadership that eliminating the school's diversity, equity, and inclusion office, four staff members with a budget of just over four hundred thousand dollars, are now gone at the New College.