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Education Commissioner candidacy for FSU President puts accreditation in jeopardy

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 5:07 PM CDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - As Florida State University narrows down its field of candidates to replace its outgoing president, one name on the list could threaten the university’s accreditation if selected.

Concerns are being raised about the candidacy of the state’s Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. There are currently nine candidates being considered for President of FSU, but there’s one name sparking controversy.

“Please do not vote for Commissioner Corcoran,” FSU Student Sarah Jenkins said during the public comment section of the first day of interviews Friday.

Corcoran drew the most ire.

“Corcoran does not understand the tone or content necessary to work at, let alone lead a major research university,” Will Hanley, an Assistant Professor of History at FSU, said.

A letter sent to the Florida Board of Governors by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the body that accredits FSU, raised concerns over Corcoran’s candidacy. In it, the Association suggested Corcoran’s role as a voting member on the Board of Governors, which will have the final say on hiring the next President, could put the university’s accreditation in jeopardy.

“There are just way too many questions,” Matthew Lata, the Union President of the United Faculty of Florida FSU Chapter, said.

He said losing accreditation would be a devastating setback for the university.

“Without full accreditation, we don’t have access to certain kinds of federal funds and I don’t know how that would impact research, impact student support, but it certainly would do that,” Lata said.

The Board of Governors responded to SACHS with a letter saying Corcoran, if selected, would abstain from voting on his own confirmation, dispelling any conflict of interest.

Even if that alleviates the commission’s conflict of interest concerns, questions about Corcoran’s qualifications remain and could still result in a loss of accreditation.

“Leaders of accredited universities must be qualified to do the job,” Lata said.

The union representing faculty at FSU told us regardless of who is picked, they will accept and work with the next President.

Corcoran is set to be interviewed at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. The following week, a series of open candidate forums for students, faculty, staff, and community groups is planned.