Rep. Vasilinda Vies For FSU Presidency As Thrasher Finally Applies

May 29, 2014

Rep. Michelle Rehwinkle-Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee
Credit Michelle Rehwinkle Vasilinda /

Tallahassee State Representative Michelle Rehwinkle-Vasilinda says she’s concerned the press isn’t taking her bid to be Florida State University President seriously. Vasilinda is the second state lawmaker in the pool for FSU’s top job, and she’s taking aim at the front-runner, a powerful state senator with many political ties.

Vasilinda’s resume consists of decades in higher education, the creation of various classes at Florida State and her primary employer Tallahassee Community College—not to mention her work as a lawmaker with strong ties to the local community:

“I’m well equipped to run that university, and I’m just sort of tired, frankly, of the press thinking that I am not. People who know my record understand that I am," she says.

Vasilinda’s resume checks most of the boxes for what the school claims it wants. Her husband and daughters are all graduates of FSU—checking off the school’s “loyalty” requirement listed in the school’s requirements. And she says she can raise money. But FSU’s presidential search is now mired in allegations it’s been rigged in favor of the front-runner, State Senator John Thrasher.

According to the Miami Herald, Thrasher has finally submitted his application for the job almost a week after being named a finalist. At the time of this post, the documents had not been uploaded to the public presidential search website.  In a four-page cover letter, Thrasher discusses his years in the legislature, his ability to fundraise, and his work in the private sector with the lobbying firm, Southern Strategy Group.

He also highlights his time as chairman of Florida State University's Board of Trustees, his work with former Governor Jeb Bush's education reform group, "Foundation for Florida's Future". Thrasher also uses the letter to address a main criticism leveled against him, that while long on political experience, he's short on academic credentials:

While I am not a traditional academic, I have spent my time in the business world and the legislature working on higher education policy and have gained diverse experiences that have prepared me for this challenge. As past chair of the Florida State University Board of Trustees, I successfully worked with internal stakeholder s and groups such as students, staff, faculty, trustees, donors, and other benefactors. As chair, we developed plans to hire additional faculty members in interdisciplinary academic clusters, added new doctoral programs, initiated student success initiatives, and increased the number of national merit scholars at Florida State University. I learned to listen to the concerns of faculty, staff, and students and to understand their perspective. I will be committed to academic freedom, faculty governance, and shared governance responsibility as provided in the University Constitution just as I was committed to the specific rules of governance in every public position I have ever held.