TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – For the first time, under new leadership, the New College of Florida’s new Board of Trustees met Tuesday. After receiving an ear-full from people upset over the shift of power, they started making changes.
During a tense and emotional meeting, the Board voted to eliminate the school’s office of diversity.
“I’d like to be one of the first students to welcome our new president by letting you know that you are in fact not welcomed here,” one student said during public comments.
It was former Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s first board meeting as the interim head of New College of Florida. Students and supporters of the small liberal arts school packed the room.
They questioned the size of Corcoran’s salary and the source of its funding. Corcoran’s total compensation package is nearly $900,000 a year.
During public comments, students and parents said that money should be allocated towards improving the facility.
“Doors are outdated and not functional, the elevators are broken, there’s mold on the walls and constant plumbing issues,” one speaker said.
Corcoran promised to improve facilities at New College with increased funding from Tallahassee. He also said a top priority will be student recruitment.
Currently, the school has about 700 students, short of its own goal of 1, 200.
Governor Ron DeSantis has listed low recruitment as one factor driving drastic changes to the school.
In January, DeSantis appointed 6 new members to the Board.
“It’s a heartfelt desire to have the college be a leader and an example of an excellent liberal arts education institution,” Mr. Corcoran said.
Late Tuesday, the 13-member board voted to eliminate the school’s diversity office.
The Office of Outreach and Inclusive Excellence gets approximately $440,000 annually in funding and consists of four staff members.
State Rep. Anna Eskamani has been holding meetings with students about the changes.
On Tuesday, she joined a crowd of several hundred students protesting the changes.
“The direct impact is eliminating programs that focus on students of color,” she said.
State Rep. Anna Eskamani was at a protest, before the meeting, with several hundred students, “I think New College is the canary in the coal mine for students across the state of Florida and for faculty.”
“The responsibility they’ve taken is to raise the alarm bells for everyone else because at the end of the day, every board of trustees can be flipped overnight. What DeSantis did at New College can absolutely happen at UCF, FSU, UF.”