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Protests at New College as Trustees Abolish DEI, Install Richard Corcoran as President

Corcoran laid out his vision for reforming the public liberal arts college as scores of angry protesters jeered the new board members’ conservative vision.

Photo credit: Mahsa Saeidi, WFLA

SARASOTA, FLORIDA — New College of Florida ditched discriminatory Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs and debuted new interim president Richard Corcoran at a contentious board meeting on Tuesday. The audacious move represents a historic step in the public university’s reformation from ultra-woke to the envisioned “Hillsdale of the South.”

Conservative activist Christopher Rufo – one of six new trustees appointed to the school’s board of trustees– celebrated the move as he continues his national crusade against DEI programs in corporations, government and institutions of higher education.

During the meeting, Rufo pointed out that DEI policies “treat people differently on the basis of their skin color.”


The move to abolish DEI – which Rufo had previously promised to push for – drew praise online from recognized academics Gad Saad and Peter Boghossian. On campus, however, dozens of protesters rallied to speak out against the new leadership.

Adults young and old aired grievances before and during the meeting, holding signs with messages like “Willfully Woke #proud” and “Woke > ignorant.” One sign claimed “Jesus was/is woke,” while another argued “Colorblindness: A bigot’s way of denying the reality of racism.” Several older women dressed up as characters from The Handmaid's Tale – a popular novel about a fictional totalitarian state.

“Obedient knaves in Tallahassee are pushing their dystopian DeSantis-land with HB999, which should be numbered 666,” one woman said of a bill that would diminish job security for tenured faculty. “You, Corcoran, and your distrustees (sic) pushing Christian nationalism and privatization are looting public coffers.”


The meeting was the first for Interim President Richard Corcoran, who served as education commissioner from December 2018 to May 2022 and member and as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives from 2010 to 2018.

Corcoran opened by calling the board “second to none” in the state, before providing a “roadmap” that touched on new student and faculty recruitment, a comprehensive review of “classes, mission and vision,” as well as improvements to on-campus facilities and student life activities. He also hinted at increased financial support from the state.

“It’s my hope that come May, at the close of [Legislative] Session, that we have set a record at New College that we’re able to secure from the state,” he said. “That funding will put us on that path to making those necessary improvements.”


In a Twitter thread responding to a critic, Rufo acknowledged more change lies ahead.

“We have a strong new president who has a mandate to change the administrative and academic trajectory of the institution. You'll see changes in the next 120 days,” he wrote. “We will be shutting down low-performing, ideologically-captured academic departments and hiring new faculty. The student body will be recomposed over time: some current students will self-select out, others will graduate; we'll recruit new students who are mission-aligned.”

Rufo even used the word “takeover” in describing the state’s overhaul of the failing institution, stating: “The takeover of New College has already changed the dynamics in higher education.”