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New Florida college punishes graduates who booed at graduation ceremony


New College President Richard Corcoran said the school could withhold degrees from protesting students.

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New College of Florida is taking disciplinary action against some students who participated in protests at the college's graduation ceremony on May 17, according to a statement from the college and documents obtained by the Herald-Tribune.

In a statement, New College said it had filed five complaints for violations of the school's student code of conduct. A copy of a letter to a New College graduate obtained by the Herald-Tribune said a protesting student “did not respond to instructions” regarding his disruptive behavior.

New College President Richard Corcoran said in a statement that students could face consequences ranging from withholding a degree, issuing a letter of apology or taking required civil discourse courses, to suspension or expulsion from New College. Revocation of an issued college diploma is rare – usually only in cases of plagiarism or cheating.

Before the graduation ceremony, New College had posted an expectation that students “behave appropriately and show respect towards other graduates, guests and speakers”.

“We support and protect the right to free speech and are resolute in insisting on civil discourse,” New College's statement said. “Disruptive behaviour by a few individuals at a celebratory event attended by hundreds does not represent any of these principles.”

During the college's graduation ceremony, students erupted in boos, chanted “Free Palestine” and shouted abuse as Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of TD Ameritrade, spoke. Students also wore stoles bearing the Palestinian flag, following a nationwide trend of protests on college campuses against the war in Gaza.

“They don't care,” Ricketts told Corcoran on stage after he finished his speech. “I hate it, but they really don't care what I have to say.”

In an opinion column obtained by the Wall Street Journal, President Corcoran stated that students will be assured of a fair hearing at the school's senior leadership hearings.

“The fact that students disrupted the event at times was a disheartening reflection of the prevailing intolerance of differing views in today's society,” Corcoran said. “But this illiberal attitude has not prevailed at New College and will not do so.”

Follow Herald-Tribune education reporter Steven Walker on Twitter at @swalker_7. Reach him at sbwalker@gannett.com..

Anna Harden

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