New College of Florida Shatters Enrollment Record, Unveils Free Speech, Athletics Initiatives

Six months after Governor Ron DeSantis overhauled the board of trustees with a series of conservative appointments, the New College of Florida has broken an all-time record for enrollment, according to Interim President Richard Corcoran. At a board of trustees meeting on Thursday, Corcoran praised the administration’s efforts to revamp the college and said admissions had become “highly selective” due to the rush of applicants. Development of the school is ongoing, with the athletics department planning to launch several new programs in the fall, and the board of trustees working to secure funding for a new $2 million “Freedom Institute” to fight cancel culture in higher education.

“There is a tremendous move nationwide to ensure that our college campuses are true marketplaces of ideas, where you can allow your mind to explore the great reaches of everything,” New College Interim President Richard Corcoran said during Thursday’s meeting, according to a report by ClickOrlando. “And right now there is a tremendous cancel culture that is existing in higher ed. There’s a tremendous pushback against that cancel culture.”

Corcoran has served as Interim President of New College since the board of trustees fired Patricia Okker in January. He has spearheaded efforts to reform the school, including the dismantling of its diversity, equity, and inclusion department.

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The small, Sarasota liberal arts college has long been the smallest school in the Florida University System with less than 700 students, but according to Corcoran, the school will likely see more than 300 enrolled in the fall, with roughly one-third being athletes.

Starting in the fall, New College plans to add multiple new athletics programs and is actively recruiting for men’s and women’s lacrosse. Mariano Jimenez, the school’s athletics director and head baseball coach, was hired in April to revamp the school’s athletics department. While New College has historically only competed in intramural sports, it will soon begin competing in intercollegiate competitions.

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At Thursday’s meeting, the board also announced that it would be moving ahead with a $2 million proposal to add a new “Freedom Institute” to the school, aimed at fighting cancel culture in higher education. A description of the institute included in the meeting agenda says the institute would promote “tolerance of opposing views” and “engage such views in civil discourse.” Roughly 90 percent of the funding would be allocated towards hiring “scholars to work and teach” at the center, according to ClickOrlando.

A document included in the meeting agenda also laid out a plan to include “short courses open to the public in Sarasota and across Florida,” new events “promoting New College’s and Florida’s free speech principles,” and create “professional development programs.”

Corcoran also described the new project as an opportunity to “model free speech” and attract new support for the school’s mission.

“In addition to that, to go out there and hit up additional donor bases saying, what we’re doing to model free speech, whether it’s in K-12 arenas, higher-ed arenas, whatever it might be … and going out and having it flourish nationwide, would be a tremendous benefit in attracting additional experts, speakers, debates to come to New College.”

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