Higher Education President And Provost Candidates Exempt From Sunshine Law

Apr 1, 2015

HB 223 would exempt higher education institutions from identifying president and provost applicants.

The sun would no longer come out when it comes to identifying university and college president and provost candidates. At least that’s the point of a public-record exemption moving in the Legislature.

HB 223 would keep public higher education institutions from identifying university and college president or provost applicants. Rep. Neil Combee, R-Polk City, says the bills purpose is to get the largest number of qualified applicants for the position. 

“I think that this gives us the opportunity to increase our pool of applicants. If you look, there are studies that have been done, one at the University of Houston. They looked at the process used by a couple of different states in those where there is an opportunity to hold that information private for a period of time they get a lot more folks applying,” Combee says.

Universities have long complained about their searches being public. They say it has kept some potential applicants from applying for top jobs.

“There are a lot of leaders in higher education that are sitting presidents that don’t want their name in the newspaper saying that they’re interested in a different job,” former Florida Board of Regents and California State University System Chancellor Charlie Reed said last year.

But there’s public opposition from groups like the United Faculty of Florida. Interim Executive Director Marshall Ogletree says he’s looking for bold, confident leaders to lead the state university and colleges.

“If you’re not bold enough or confident enough to put an application in, then do we really want you in Florida? Do we have a real problem with our leadership at our colleges and universities now? I think not,” Ogletree says.

“Because we just had four successful presidential searches in this state in about 18 months and in each one of those cases they were qualified, highly qualified candidates from all over the country if not the world,” policy director for the Florida AFL-CIO Rich Templin says.

The bill was passed the House Education Committee but its companion measure is in trouble in the Senate. Sen. David Simmons,R-Maitland, announced the development last week.

“Senator Hays requested that SB 182 be temporarily postponed is there any objection? No objection. There being no objection, SB 182 is temporarily postponed,” Simmons said.

It was the second setback for the bill and that could mean there’s not enough Senate support to get the measure through. In order for a proposal to get the governor’s desk—it has to be approved by both legislative chambers. 

*Correction: The House Education committee voted 12-6 on the bill. The vote was not unanimous, as previously reported.