Criticisms Aplenty At FSU's Presidential Search Committee Meeting

Jun 11, 2014

Students attending Wednesday's presidential search committee meeting.
Credit Nick Evans

It’s no secret Florida State University’s presidential search has put a bitter taste in the mouths of many students, faculty, and alumni.   Several of these stakeholders made their voices heard at Wednesday’s presidential search committee meeting.

Some, like FSU student John Emanuello, followed the procedures, using the public comment time to call for a reset in the presidential search.

“Now’s the time to take a step back and revaluate and reassess how the search has gone and where it should go in the future,” Emanuello says.

Others, like Communications Professor Andy Opel, bent the procedures, calling out to extend the period for comment.

Still others tried a different course – as when an unnamed woman interrupted the proceedings to shout, “I stand against this motion, I demand the students and faculty choose who their president should be, not an outside firm.  All in favor say aye!”

Students seated nearby answered with a unanimous aye.

Jennifer Proffitt, Associate Professor of Communications and President of the FSU chapter of the United Faculty of Florida, delivered a petition with over 14 hundred signatures demanding a new search firm and a reconstituted search committee with more students and faculty members.  

Several commenters echo these concerns and call for a September deadline for applications.  But the continual refrain is the importance of hiring a president with strong academic credentials. 

Associate Professor of English, Ned Stuckey-French says an academic is needed if Florida State plans to become a top public university.

“You look at the top 30 universities – public research universities – in this country only one of them is not led by an academic.  Just one.  Right now, judging from the comments of the petition, we can see people do not trust politicians of Florida to be the presidents of their university,” Stuckey-French says.

The politician Stuckey-French refers to is Sen. John Thrasher (R-St. Augustine).  Until recently, Thrasher had been considered the front-runner for the job, but public outcry and the addition of more qualified candidates have dimmed his chances.  Many opponents point out Thrasher lacks the academic background the search committee listed as a requirement.  But not everyone expressed the same skepticism of politicians.

Hoyt Prindle, the assistant Vice President of the Florida Business Development Corporation, says politicians are fine so long as they have experience that lends itself the position.

“I don’ t think that candidates at a top 40 or top 50 public university should be just plucked from the State senate without any kind of academic qualifications or background,” Prindle says.  

After the meeting adjourned Proffitt said she sees incremental progress

“I think that this is a good first step, I think that we still have a way to go to make this a more open fair transparent and competitive process.”

The next meeting of the presidential search committee has not yet  been scheduled.