“Students Against Fascism in Education” protest New College of Florida’s new presidential pick

Gaby Batista speaking. Women's Voices of Southwest FL members in the background, including Sarah Parker on the right.

Former Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran was chosen yesterday as New College of Florida’s permanent president after serving less than a year as interim president. The move further solidifies a veritable conservative grip on the traditionally liberal arts school as part of myriad of changes after Republican Governor Ron DeSantis appointed a majority of the Board of Trustees with conservative allies earlier this year, which ousted past president Patricia Okker, and replaced her promptly with Corcoran. Even before the decision was announced, dozens of students gathered on campus in protest of the decision.

Once home to courses focused on gender studies, and diversity studies, the newly formed Board and newly elected President Corcoran have instead focused on making over the college with athletics, and inspiration derived from Christian colleges like Hillsdale in Michigan. Corcoran was named as permanent president in a 10-2 vote, after serving as interim president since January 31st. Gaby Batista is with Students Against Fascism in Education, or SAFE, and said that new leadership wasting money, highlighting when the school flew in former President Donald Trump’s COVID advisor Scott Atlas to give this year’s commencement address.

“Where’s the money for faculty research? Where’s the money for student research? Where’s the money to honor faculty contract contracts? Where’s the money to make sure our college is accessible to everyone? And where’s the money to keep our library open? Where’s the money for education? The question we’re asking is are you just incompetent at managing funds or are you corrupt?”

At a June Board of Trustees meeting Corcoran planned for the demolition of graduate student dorms, against warnings by student trustee Grace Keenan. Corcoran insisted his plan would work.

“…let’s just say hypothetically, that you guys chose me as interim president. And the worst-case scenario that you could possibly anticipate happens. I would …I would resign in disgrace, or you guys should fire me on the spot.”

But as the school year began, about 200 students were told to stay in hotel rooms miles from campus, leaving the campus feeling empty, according to second-year student Xander Denner.

“Now that the worst thing imaginable has happened and it has and students are struggling because they’ve been forced out of their housing contracts and into off-campus housing…is this when you resign?

And Denner feels lied to by Corcoran and the new Board.

“The salary of being a professional liar is $699 grand with a gas stipend. This year I found out that if given power, unethical people will use that power against those they’re supposed to protect. They will use that power to twist the truth to suit their selfish ambitions. They are unbothered when people are their casualties on their way to more power.”

His next contract could be as much as $900,000 annually. Sophia Brown graduated in May, and is former Chief Editor of the college newspaper, The Catalyst. She said that this is what one might expect from an administration that is not focused on preserving the current mission, students, or faculty.

“Instead, the priority is to cast out the students and faculty that do not fit a particular conservative model and to replace them with those that do. This summer one trustee revealed in an interview with The New York Times that the newfound emphasis on athletics and the abolishment of the Gender Studies Program have one common goal in mind to reduce the numbers of queer, transgender and women’s students at New College and supplement them with predominantly male and predominantly conservative student athletes coached by and large by people with backgrounds at private Christian institutions.”

Florida Politics reported that recently fired communications director Ryan Terry confirmed that with only two months on the job, he was able to confirm just what Brown had been claiming.

“He told reporters at Florida politics that when he tried to convince the administration to better promote unity on campus, he was allegedly met with the response quote, I don’t care about unity on campus.”

New College has become the focal point of an effort by DeSantis, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, to rid higher education in Florida of what the governor calls left-leaning “woke” indoctrination on campuses. In May he signed into law a bill banning the state’s public colleges and universities from spending money on DEI programs.



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