Sarasota higher ed leaders discuss diversity amid Florida crackdown

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Leaders at Sarasota-area colleges speak at Sarasota Tiger Bay Club // Chris Young, 3/7/2024

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Leaders at several colleges in Manatee and Sarasota Counties spoke at a nonpartisan political forum on Thursday. An otherwise non-controversial discussion got interesting when the question of diversity came up.

Leaders at New College, Ringling College of Art and Design, State College of Florida, and USF Sarasota-Manatee spoke.

One of the key issues was Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs.  Richard Corcoran is the president of New College in Sarasota.

“The program has been an abject failure.”

New College received national attention because of changes at the school after Governor Ron DeSantis appointed conservative trustees. Corcoran has repeatedly spoken out against diversity efforts in Florida.

He referenced a portion of Harvard’s DEI statement, saying it tells certain students they’re not welcome.

“The opening line of this DEI program says we actively recruit and welcome these students, and if you’re not those students, you’re not welcome and not accepted. And you know who they don’t include – read it!”

Dr. Karen Holbrook is the Regional Chancellor of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus. She downplayed the state’s restrictions on DEI, saying they’re not as draconian as they sound.

“There are many things that sound like they are going to really shut down a lot of what we do, that won’t.”

She says the DEI Director of the school has switched roles.

“He has now become a student success advocate, or a student success leader, which is exactly what he’s been doing anyway.”

The leaders also discussed education funding and the future of higher ed.

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