Months after its president was ousted by a new board, New College of Florida announced three finalists for its top position, including interim president Richard Corcoran.
Other finalists include Tyler Fisher, an associate professor at the University of Central Florida; and Robert Gervasi, former interim president at the University of Mount Union and the previous president of Ohio Dominican University and Quincy University.
In January, Gov. Ron DeSantis recast the New College’s Board of Trustees with six conservative appointees in what he said was an attempt to improve the school’s enrollment and performance. At the first meeting of the new board, former president Patricia Okker announced she was being terminated.
The board announced Corcoran, former education commissioner and Florida speaker of the House, would serve as interim president. Matthew Spalding, one of the newly appointed trustees, later said he had recommended Corcoran for that role.
Corcoran is earning a salary of $699,000 as interim — a nearly $400,000 pay raise from his predecessor.
A news release from the university said the 15-member search committee that convened in April received 63 applications and conducted eight interviews. A bill that took effect last year makes all presidential candidates confidential until they are named as finalists.
Spalding, who chaired the search committee, said in the release that the committee “worked diligently through a long list of highly qualified applicants to find and forward these outstanding finalists.”
Fisher is a faculty fellow at the Burnett Honors College at UCF who helps students apply for international scholarships. He is also a professor of modern language and literature and a former Rhodes scholar.
Reached by phone Tuesday evening, Fisher said as a product of the Florida university system, he believed he brought a perspective to bridge interests between students, faculty and administrators.
He said he believed the honors colleges could be the model for the future of higher education.
“New College is in an especially prime position to do that because it is Florida’s honors college,” Fisher said.
He said he enjoyed meeting with the Board of Trustees via Zoom and looked forward to meeting with students and faculty on campus.
Gervasi serves on the board of the Fulbright Association and holds master’s and doctoral degrees in the classics, in addition to an master of business administration.
David Harvey, former faculty chair, said in the release that the process was “exceptionally thorough.”
He added, “this is a critical time for New College and I’m very proud of the quality of the finalists we’ve identified for consideration by the trustees.”
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Current faculty chair Amy Reid and New College faculty union chair Steve Shipman declined to comment.
Statewide faculty union president Andrew Gothard said he didn’t know much about Fisher or Gervasi.
“The only candidate I know anything about is Richard Corcoran,” he said.
Based on his track record as education commissioner and his lack of higher education experience before New College, Gothard said he wouldn’t support a Corcoran presidency.
“We tend to support candidates with experience,” he said.
In 2021, Corcoran applied for the presidential job at Florida State University. After faculty raised concerns and the president of the accreditation body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities, inquired about a potential conflict of interest, he was not named among finalists.
New College Student Senate President Catherine “Libby” Harrity said Tuesday that the search process lacked meaningful input from existing students.
Previous presidential searches have typically included members of student leadership, Harrity said.
“It’s baffling to all involved that we had no say in this search,” Harrity said.
The only student representative on the committee is Joshua Broyhill, a third year political science major who transferred to New College in 2022. Broyhill has previously worked as an intern for the Republican Party of Florida and most recently as a legislative intern, according to his LinkedIn.
According to the news release, Broyhill said, “participating in the search process has been a great experience and I’m excited about the quality of the finalists we identified to continue New College’s growth and development for the future.”
Alan Levine, a member of the Board of Governors who served on the search committee said in the release that the group “meticulously followed the BOG regulations” to provide “a fair review of all applicants and efficiently reveal three great finalists.”
New College’s Board of Trustees meets Aug. 10, and candidate forums will be announced on the Board of Trustees website.
Divya Kumar covers higher education and Ian Hodgson is an education data reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, working in partnership with Open Campus.