- New College of Florida said Thursday it settled with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights over allegations it was discriminating against people with disabilities.
- In September, OCR began investigating the public liberal arts institution for failing to make its website and social media accounts equally accessible to all users.
- College leaders said they would correct the issues over the next eight months, but did not give further details on how they would comply with federal disability standards. OCR has struck similar agreements with other public Florida universities over “nearly identical website issues,” the college said.
OCR met with New College staff on Sept. 13, and convened an accessibility committee shortly thereafter to begin correcting the flagged issues. The college did not detail in a news release what those problems were.
The college blamed its compliance failures on "years of inattentiveness" and said its leaders immediately addressed OCR's concerns.
“We hold ourselves to the highest standard of compliance and recognize the importance of ensuring the New College website is effective for all users, including users with disabilities,” Richard Corcoran, New College's interim president, said in a statement Thursday.
Shortly after OCR began investigating, the institution said it was confident the agency would find the anonymous disability complaint meritless, and dismissed it as a headline-grabbing stunt.
The college is facing another complaint that it repeatedly discriminated against protected groups, like LGBTQ students. OCR has not publicly announced if it opened an investigation into the accusation. The complaint states one of the new trustees openly mocked a transgender employee and students.
Corcoran was dismissive of the allegations in a Friday essay in The Federalist.
"Make no mistake, the goal here is to weaponize the department’s Office of Civil Rights and return power to those who nearly destroyed New College via a noxious combination of radical ideology and stunning administrative ineptitude," he wrote.
New College has garnered extensive national attention following Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' installation of several right-wing voices on the institution's board.
The start of New College’s fall semester has been marked by chaos, including a mass resignation of faculty that dramatically reduced course options.
The newly conservative board appointed Corcoran — a staunch DeSantis ally — as the college's interim leader after it fired former president Patricia Okker in January. Corcoran is a finalist to become permanent president.