Former education commissioner Richard Corcoran in line to lead New College
Tampa Bay Times | By Jeffrey S. Solochek | January 31, 2023
Corcoran, who also served as House speaker, previously sought to be Florida State University’s president.
Richard Corcoran, the fiery former House speaker who led the state Education Department as it banned “critical race theory” from schools, was on tap Tuesday to lead Gov. Ron DeSantis’ overhaul of New College of Florida, according to a DeSantis spokesperson.
“Yes, it’s real,” spokesperson Taryn Fenske said via text message, when asked about the rumor swirling that Corcoran, 57, would be appointed as president of the school by a new majority of trustees.
The trustees began meeting Tuesday afternoon on campus, days after one of the new appointees called for the removal of the school’s leadership and the end of faculty tenure.
Christopher Rufo and Jason “Eddie” Speir, two of the six new conservative trustees appointed on Jan. 6 by DeSantis, have been posting on social media in recent days about their desire to change the leadership at New College.
Patricia Okker has held the New College president’s job since 2021. She previously had been dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Missouri since 2017.
Andrew Gothard, president of the United Faculty of Florida, said that Okker is well-liked among faculty and the union would be sorry to see her “forced out in such a politically motivated manner.”
He said the union, which has a New College chapter, has “certainly had our differences with Richard Corcoran” but it is willing to work with him if he respectfully approaches the job and “works to improve” the university.
”But if he comes in and toes the line of the governor’s comments and attitude toward higher education — that students and faculty must be forced to adopt conservative ideology, that programs must be canceled when they don’t align with the governor’s agenda … then we’re going to have a big problem,” Gothard said.
State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, mentioned Corcoran’s involvement Tuesday afternoon, telling a crowd of student protesters at New College that he had been named interim president of the school. She referred to him as “a man who preaches small government while he makes a living off the government dime.”
Corcoran, who serves on the State University System Board of Governors, attempted to become Florida State University president in 2021 but was not selected amid criticism that he didn’t have the right experience for the job. He also faced conflict-of-interest questions as a member of the Board of Governors, which approves presidential selections.
Corcoran represented Pasco County in the Florida House. He received his bachelor’s degree from St. Leo University and his law degree from Regent University.
He stepped down in April as the state’s education commissioner and joined the lobbying firm Continental Strategies in May.
According to Florida lobbying records, Corcoran was registered to lobby both the Legislature and the executive branch. He had dozens of clients, including Charter Schools USA, Polk County Public Schools and the University of Miami. He reaffirmed his relationship with many of those clients earlier this month, records show.
For the moment, it appears Corcoran remains a lobbyist for some three dozen clients.
When competing for the FSU president’s job, Corcoran said he saw himself as the candidate best quipped to raise money for the university and pledged to share governance with those in academia.
“I know I’m a nonacademic and I can’t fix that,” he said at the time. “I think that the next president should be a dynamic leader who goes out there and gets with the faculty, creates a search committee and grabs hold of a heck of a good vice provost for research.”
The FSU search committee did not include him in their list of three finalists.