President Richard Corcoran Addresses Disruptive Behavior at 2024 Commencement in Wall Street Journal Guest Commentary

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- by New College Communications


The article below presents excerpts from a guest commentary authored by New College President Richard Corcoran that was originally published in the Wall Street Journal on May 27, 2024. The full commentary is available at (pay wall).

It might be customary to have a prominent entrepreneur speak at the commencement of a renowned institution like Princeton or Harvard, but it was a notable honor to have Joe Ricketts, founder of TD Ameritrade, step on stage at New College of Florida. Some students, unfortunately disagreed, interrupting his speech with scattered boos and chants. Nonetheless, civil discourse and free speech will prevail at New College.

That students intermittently disrupted the proceedings was a disheartening reflection of the prevailing intolerance for diverse viewpoints in today’s society. But that illiberal attitude hasn’t and won’t rule New College.

The school made meticulous preparations to protect students’ right to enjoy a normal commencement and the speakers’ to address the crowd freely. Commencement organizers made contingency plans for the possibility of protests, deploying law enforcement and surveillance to ensure that disruptions wouldn’t overshadow the event’s significance.

Mr. Ricketts remained composed as he delivered his address, though a momentary pause betrayed his concern.

“They don’t care,” he confided to me in a brief side discussion, the microphone inadvertently capturing his words, later revealed in video footage of the event. “I hate it, but they really don’t care what I have to say.”

In the aftermath, supporters of the student protesters expressed concerns about potential repercussions for their behavior. I reaffirmed New College’s unwavering commitment to fairness and due process. 

In the final exchange inadvertently captured on the mic, Mr. Ricketts and I acknowledged the broader significance of our actions. It wasn’t merely about New College but about upholding the principles of free speech and civil discourse in an increasingly polarized society.

“We will win, Joe,” I declared.

Mr. Ricketts echoed the sentiment, “You will win.”

In a world often fraught with discord, I believe New College’s unwavering stance can be a beacon of hope—a testament to the inseparability of freedom of expression and the pursuit of truth.

Related Links:

Joe Ricketts’ Commencement Address (Text)

Additional Details on Student Disciplinary Referrals