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New College of Florida Fires Back at Free Speech Organization Over Departed Professor

New College of Florida’s Interim President Richard Corcoran blasted the idea that the College had violated the Constitution, writing: “Sticking to the facts rather than vitriol and virtue signaling will be helpful to advance civil discourse in the future.”

SARASOTA, FLORIDA — New College of Florida has fired back after a free speech organization suggested the school violated the First Amendment by not renewing the contract of a faculty member.

On Tuesday, Interim President Richard Corcoran issued a pointed response to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression’s (FIRE) June 8 letter implying that New College had violated a visiting professor’s right to free speech.


“FIRE is deeply concerned by New College’s decision not to renew Visiting Assistant Professor of History Erik Wallenberg’s contract, apparently due to his teaching, views, and past criticism of university leadership,” FIRE’s Campus Rights Advocacy Director Alex Morey began in the letter.

Morey claims that New College Board Member “[Christopher] Rufo has repeatedly expressed willingness to violate the First Amendment,” but stopped short of explicitly stating that anyone had violated the law. She cited several tweets in which Rufo mocks Wallenberg as a “middling, Left-wing intellectual” and called his past accomplishments as “Pure left-wing Mad Libs.”

These tweets, Morey concluded, “strongly suggested” that New College’s decision to not renew Wallenberg’s contract was due to retaliation.


“The tweets simply do not say what you are asserting at all. Since you qualify the entire letter in the first sentence with the word ‘apparently,’ I think you know this,” Corcoran wrote back. “You then predicate the rest of the letter on the understanding that Mr. Rufo said something that is clearly not stated in the actual text of the tweets.”

Corcoran pointed out that Rufo “cannot act unilaterally on a 13-member board” and “is not involved in minor HR decisions, such as whether or not to renew a one-year, visiting professor's contract.”

“With little research you would find that numerous members of New College faculty have disagreed with the board and administration very publicly and are still employed,” he added.

“In the future, it would be helpful to focus on the actual facts of a case before writing a public letter filled with pages of legal conclusions untethered by factual reality,” Corcoran continued. “Sticking to the facts rather than vitriol and virtue signaling will be helpful to advance civil discourse in the future.”


Morey responded to Corcoran’s letter in an email to The Florida Standard on Tuesday evening.

“The New College interim president’s response today fails to tell us why Erik Wallenberg’s contract wasn’t renewed,” she wrote. “That means faculty still don’t know if they can speak or teach freely at New College.”

Morey acknowledged Rufo’s right to free expression, but reiterated that the “implication” from his tweets “strongly suggests the non-renewal may have been for unlawful, viewpoint-discriminatory reasons.”

“New College’s response today suggests the institution’s leaders fail to understand their obligations to the public as government actors,” she added. “FIRE will continue monitoring the situation closely until we can be assured student and faculty rights are no longer under threat at New College.”