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New College President Richard Corcoran is getting a $200,000 bonus

Daylina Miller

The New College Board of Trustees approved a $200,000 performance bonus for president Richard Corcoran on Thursday.

The also once again denied tenure to a professor who filed legal action over the state's expansion of university presidents' powers.

Corcoran, a former Florida House speaker, was named president of the Sarasota liberal arts college last year as part of a political takeover by allies of Gov. Ron DeSantis aimed at modeling the school after the Christian, right-leaning Hillsdale College in Michigan.

New College Board of Trustee member Matthew Spalding, who teaches at Hillsdale's Washington, D.C., campus, praised Corcoran for bringing in a record amount of money from the state.

"President Corcoran has brought in $50 million in appropriations, the largest annual infusion of financial resources in the school's history and more than the college has obtained in the total of the last 10 years," he said at the meeting, reading aloud item 1 on board documents that detailed reasons for the bonus.

"My assumption is that previous presidents also received bonuses. This seems to be a bonus that was actually earned," added Spalding.

The $200,000 bonus was based on performance and was previously laid out in Corcoran's five-year contract. His base salary is about $700,000, or over a million dollars with benefits and incentives, making him one of the highest paid university presidents in Florida.

That's despite New College's small size, with an enrollment of around 700 students.

Also at Thursday's meeting, a New College professorwho filed suit against the school last year was once again denied tenure.

Music history assistant professor Hugo Viera-Vargas was recommended for tenure by colleagues and superiors.

But Corcoran moved to deny tenure, based not on "qualitative" measures, but "quantitative" ones, he said, taking issue with Viera-Vargas' low class size.

"I am setting a bar that if you are in the bottom five percent of students (taught), I don't think that warrants tenure," said Corcoran.

Faculty chair Amy Reid said Corcoran's assessment was wrong.

"I don't believe that numbers, raw, are the most important thing to consider. I do think that qualitative information is more important. But the numbers here that we got were unfortunately mistaken," she said.

Only Reid and board of trustees member Grace Keenan, who is President of the Student Alliance at New College, voted against the motion.

"It does not make sense to me that the only reason we would deny tenure is low class size, when that is something we specifically market and something we specifically encourage our faculty to do," said Keenan.

The vote means Viera-Vargas was denied tenure a second time and will not be eligible to apply for it again.

Viera-Varga's name is on a suit filed last year over a new law signed by DeSantis that gave university presidents more power, and prevented arbitration of grievances filed by faculty members over issues like being denied tenure.

"With this denial it is clearer than ever that the administration intends to put politics over academics," the New College faculty union said in a statement after the meeting, noting that Viera-Vargas earned the "overwhelming endorsement of all parties at each step of a long review process."

"This politicization of faculty evaluation and tenure is chilling and dangerous," the New College chapter of United Faculty of Florida statement said.

Copyright 2024 WUSF 89.7. To see more, visit WUSF 89.7.

Kerry Sheridan is a reporter and co-host of All Things Considered at WUSF Public Media.
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