Former DeSantis Education Commissioner Appointed As Interim College President

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Alexa Schwerha Contributor
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The New College Board of Trustees voted Tuesday evening to appoint former Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran as interim college president.

The vote was cast during the first board meeting since Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed six new members, according to a live stream of the meeting. Corcoran replaces current President Patricia Okker, who was terminated through a board vote during the meeting after serving in the role since 2021. (RELATED: DeSantis Announces Plan To Squash ‘Equity’ At New College Of Florida And Restore Merit)

Corcoran served as the Florida Department of Education commissioner under the DeSantis administration from 2018 to 2022, according to his biography. DeSantis appointed him to the Board of Governors of the State University System in May 2022, according to a press release.

He also served as Florida speaker of the House from 2016-2018.

“To the people of New College, it’s been my honor and privilege to serve as your president for the last 19 months,” Okker said in remarks following the vote. “Today is a sad day, and certainly not the end that I imagined when I joined this remarkable college.”

Okker had attempted to make remarks prior to the vote, which indicated her dissatisfaction with new college leadership, but was interrupted by trustee Ron Christaldi who motioned for her termination.

“I do not believe that students are being indoctrinated at New College,” Okker said prior to the vote. “I believe a president needs to be able to stand behind her words when she asks donors to contribute . It is the only way that I can be effective. You cannot ask me to go forward and argue that we are indoctrinating students here. I do not believe it.”

Corcoran, a Republican, is unable to assume the position until March, trustees said during the meeting.

Tuesday’s meeting, which lasted nearly four hours, began with an opening prayer as requested by trustee Eddie Speir. It then opened the floor to public comments, most of which spoke against the new DeSantis appointees.

“How come someone can come from out of state, and try to decide the lives of students and parents here. Where is the democracy? Because we are living, actually, under the dictatorship of DeSantis,” audience member Ruth Beltram said, according to the Herald Tribune. “Get the hell out of our town.”

Audience members also accused the new trustees of targeting LGBTQ students, the Herald Tribune reported.

Christopher Rufo, a trustee and a Manhattan Institute senior fellow, motioned to abolish the college’s Office of Outreach and Inclusive Excellence, terminate four employees from the department and prohibit diversity statements or trainings from being mandated, according to the Herald Tribune. The presentation received extensive comment from the trustees, as well as outbursts and boos from the audience, and was later withdrawn to revise the language of the presentation.

The board voted to study and propose a policy based on Rufo’s presentation.

Corcoran, Okker and the Board of Trustees did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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