Thursday, October 19, 2023

.ANNALS OF DeSANTISTAN: Gov. DeSantis puts crooked stamp on higher-ed in Florida with New College president pick. (Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post)

Our former Congressman, RONALD DION DeSANTIS, hiring the unqualified, just as he did in St. Johns County, naming ROY ALAIMO, JR. and SARAH ARNOLD to St. Johns County Commission vacancies. 


Gov. DeSantis puts crooked stamp on higher-ed in Florida with New College president pick

By Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post,

October 19, 2023

Florida’s high-heeled tough talker was in Iowa recently, bragging about his house-cleaning of faculty at New College of Florida. 

The Sarasota college, the smallest in the state university system — and one that had, until recently, been regarded as a real gem — has been functioning mostly as a besieged campaign target for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a kind of ground-zero for his war against “woke” in higher education.

DeSantis took over the school’s board of trustees, got rid of the college president, and drove away nearly 40 percent of the school’s faculty. It has led to the U.S. News and World Report ranking of New College to fall from 76 to 100 on the list of national liberal arts colleges in the country.

DeSantis is proud of his destructive work at New College in service of appealing to uneducated, stakeless Republican voters in presidential primary states.

“They’re cycling through faculty,” DeSantis told an Iowa audience last weekend. “You know, some of these people obviously are not good fits for it …”

“If a professor of intersectional Marxism is leaving Florida, that is not a bad thing for the State of Florida,” DeSantis continued. “Let’s just be honest, I mean, that’s addition by subtraction.” 

OK, if we’re going to be honest, I would humbly point out that the academician who wrote the book on intersectional Marxism is a professor at Notre Dame University and that the dozens of professors at New College who resigned were not teaching Marxism. 

And as long as we’re talking about “good fits” for New College, it would be instructive to look at who is filling the void that DeSantis has created.

Let’s start with Richard Corcoran, the newly appointed president of New College of Florida.

Corcoran, a former Florida Speaker of the House, termed out of his legislative seat, and made his first soft landing as Florida’s Secretary of Education under DeSantis five years ago.

Corcoran’s lack of experience in schools and his dim views on traditional public education made him a controversial choice. Corcoran was a major advocate for dismantling public schools through charter schools — like the one owned by his wife — and eliminating elections of local school boards by putting them under legislative control. 

The political marriage of Corcoran and DeSantis was one of shared self-interest rather than respect. Corcoran had called DeSantis “visionless” during the governor’s first campaign for office, saying that DeSantis had “a bulldog mouth” and “a chihuahua a–.”

But Corcoran changed his tune after DeSantis got former President Donald Trump’s invaluable boost to win the Republican primary in 2018. 

DeSantis installed the newly chasened and subservient Corcoran as the state’s top education official by pushing aside Pam Stewart, a former teacher, principal and school administrator with 40 years of experience in schools.

Corcoran wasn’t through grifting on the taxpayer’s dime. That $284,000 salary he was getting as Florida’s Education Secretary was just a taste of other pots of gold within his grasp.

As Florida Education Secretary he was also a member of the state’s Board of Governors, the group that fills presidential vacancies in the state’s public universities. And it just so happened there was a plum to be plucked there last year, a high six-figure job opening as the president of Florida State University.

Using a newly passed Florida law that made the selection of university presidents less transparent, Corcoran’s name suddenly, and without prior notice, appeared on the list of three finalists for the FSU president’s job.

Let that sink in: Corcoran sat on the board that picked Corcoran as a finalist for a job in a secret process that overlooked far more qualified candidates. This was so tainted that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission wrote a letter to Florida’s Board of Governors. It warned that FSU would jeopardize its accreditation status if Corcoran were picked as president. 

Foiled. But not for long. DeSantis resurrected Corcoran again. 

After getting New College’s president Patricia Okker to resign, DeSantis’ hand-picked board installed Corcoran as the “interim” president of the college. 

You know, until a real, qualified one could be found. 

Okker had a career in higher education that spanned more than 30 years. She was the chairman of the English department at the University of Missouri when she was hired in Florida. 

I think you can imagine what happened next. The interim job for Corcoran was made permanent this month, even though students ranked Corcoran last among the three final candidates. 

And instead of the approximate $300,000 annual salary Okker was getting, Corcoran — one of the most spectacularly underqualified college presidents in America — will have his interim pay of $699,000 a year boosted to nearly total compensation of $1.5 million a year.

All to run a small college with an enrollment of about 700 students.

Go figure. You don’t have to be a non-existent professor of Marxism to be “woke” to the ongoing assault of decency here, and to the perversity of what constitutes being “a good fit” in public education these days in Florida.

Frank Cerabino is a columnist at The Palm Beach Post, a part of the USA TODAY Florida Network.


Edzilla said...

Left wing ideology is good because it teaches students to think critically and outside the box bottom line. When all is said and done, you don't have to agree with it or apply it if you don't want to...or even take classes that have to do with anything left leaning, same as you don't have to attend church if you don't want to or agree with what you might be taught there if you don't want to. But to try and take certain things out of academics is wrong, and these things have value. They just want offer students limited knowledge and omit certain things so that they never think about certain things.

Anonymous said...

Just imagine how much longer Florida has to deal with this man and his cronies. And just imagine this horrible party running Florida for the next 50 years. Just asshole after asshole. Rick Scott was even worse. Who will be the next conservative Republican asshole who won't work with the Democrats on anything, lose votes for the GOP nationally, alienate half the population, and do absolutely nothing new that's actually progressive and productive? Just think about how much time these people many lives.