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New College picks Trump COVID adviser Scott Atlas as commencement speaker

The controversial doctor resigned from his government post after promoting herd immunity as a response to the virus.
 
Dr. Scott Atlas, an adviser to President Donald Trump on the coronavirus pandemic, speaks at news conference with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020.
Dr. Scott Atlas, an adviser to President Donald Trump on the coronavirus pandemic, speaks at news conference with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published May 10, 2023|Updated May 10, 2023

Scott Atlas, a top adviser to former President Donald Trump during the COVID-19 pandemic, will serve as commencement speaker at New College of Florida next week.

The controversial radiologist, who resigned his government post in November 2020 after promoting the idea of herd immunity as a response to the virus, has appeared at roundtable events and news conferences with Gov. Ron DeSantis. He also supported Florida’s plans to reopen schools while New College’s interim president, Richard Corcoran, served as education commissioner.

Atlas is a senior fellow at Stanford University and a fellow in the Academy for Science and Freedom at the Washington, D.C., campus of Hillsdale College, the small Michigan school seen as a model for New College as it undergoes a major transformation engineered by DeSantis.

Atlas is also co-founder of the Global Liberty Institute, which promotes “individual and economic freedom and the free exchange of ideas.”

In a news release, Corcoran said Atlas was an appropriate choice to speak at “such a pivotal time for New College.”

The announcement follows the months of upheaval at the Sarasota school since DeSantis appointed six new conservative trustees to the college’s board. The trustees fired the president and appointed Corcoran as interim.

Since then, they have dismantled the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion unit, and fired its director as well as its librarian and dean of academic engagement. They have denied tenure to five faculty members and also pledged to expand the school’s athletic offerings, hiring an athletic director and expanding scholarships.

“Dr. Atlas’ perspective and resume are impressive; he is a champion and fighter for free speech and a renowned national leader,” Corcoran said in the release. “We are happy to welcome him here at New College, where we place a high value on personal freedom and individual autonomy, as Dr. Atlas does.”

Corcoran also noted that Atlas was a first-generation college student and “has spoken about being bold and rising up over challenges, even amongst criticism.”

“That spoke to me as we seek to stand up for the future of New College, our students and faculty — and now our graduates,” Corcoran said.

The commencement is scheduled for May 19 at the historic Ringling Mansion, next to the campus facing Sarasota Bay.

Divya Kumar covers higher education for the Tampa Bay Times in partnership with Open Campus.