The Phoenix Flyer

New College president search: Richard Corcoran accuses VP Harris of not reading Black history standards

By: - August 10, 2023 4:39 pm

Gov. Ron DeSantis and New College of Florida’s interim president Richard Corcoran at a Board of Education meeting July 14, 2021. The picture was taken when Corcoran was the education commissioner. Credit: Danielle J. Brown

During candidate interviews Thursday for the president of New College of Florida, Richard Corcoran — the current interim president and a candidate — said people upset about Florida’s new African American history standards didn’t take the time to read them, including Vice President Kamala Harris.

“There’s 230 pages of standards for K-12 in our in our department of education. Those standards have been rewritten, relooked, reevaluated,” Corcoran said. “People get upset about a particular standard, and, then, they don’t even take the time to read them. You have a vice president that comes to the state, has not read any of the standards and all of the requirements that are required for our students to have.”

In his interview, Corcoran didn’t mention if he had read all the standards.

His criticism of the vice president comes after her two visits to Florida — the first on July 21 and the second on Aug. 1 — to condemn the African American standards’ description of slavery as beneficial. The State Board of Education approved the standards on July 19.

New College, a liberal arts public university, has been overhauled by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who took over the university earlier this year and reshaped the board of trustees. Critics say the school will turn into a conservative bastion.

Corcoran has served as the interim president since February.

His interview lasted about 45 minutes during which Trustee Ryan Anderson asked the former House Speaker and Florida Education Commissioner what he sees as limits to academic freedom.

Corcoran started off by defending DeSantis’ higher education choices, saying that academic freedom doesn’t mean teachers can tell students two plus two equals five.

Regarding the intersection of academic freedom and academic excellence, Corcoran also said that academic freedom has to be based on something.

“What you’re doing is teaching falsehoods, and you’re creating a society that you wouldn’t want to live in in 50 years,” Corcoran said.

The search committee also interviewed the other finalists on Thursday. They were Tyler Fisher of the University of Central Florida and Robert Gervasi, former interim president of the University of Mount Union in Ohio.

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Jackie Llanos
Jackie Llanos

Jackie is a recent graduate of the University of Richmond. She has interned at Nashville Public Radio, Virginia Public Media and Virginia Mercury.