Florida State University’s search for a new leader is reaching its midpoint. The Presidential search committee has selected nearly a dozen finalists to interview for the job, including current FSU Interim President Garnett Stokes and Florida State Senator John Thrasher. But before any finalists were named, the committee had to take a break due to student protests.
When Florida State University started its search for a new president in February, search committee chairman Ed Burr promised an open, transparent process.
“We will invite collaboration from the public. We’ll encourage collaboration on our website, any thoughts can be shared. And in at least one of our search committee meetings, we’ll have an open forum for people to comment. We think this is important, we think the future of Florida State is bright," he said at the time.
Since then, the search process has been clouded and anything but smooth. Friday as the search committee prepared to name finalists for the job, its meeting dissolved into chaos as students, upset at the failure of a motion to restructure the committee to give them and faculty more representation, protested and were ultimately kicked out. The meeting was temporarily halted.
Some FSU students have been angered by what they see as a lack of representation of students and faculty on the search committee board. Jeremy Funt, a student and critic of the process, said, “we aren’t here to cause a mess. We’re not here to complicate things. I’ve seen the students shed tears…despite what you may have heard at the Board of Trustees meeting on June 23rd, students are not happy.”
Several faculty members of the committee spoke against the restructuring motion. Committee member Cliff Madsden says while he agreed with the spirit of the motion the school ran the risk of losing applicants who applied for the presidency.
“This train has already left the station, it’s not the time for this motion and I’m afraid if it were to pass, that the people—from my count we have 11, maybe 14 that are qualified—I don’t think they’d remain in the pool.”
The suspension of the meeting is the latest disruption to FSU’s search for a new president, which has been plagued with problems. A few months ago the search committee had to suspend the search and hire a new firm over objections to the candidacy of Florida State Senator John Thrasher, who emerged as an early front-runner before he applied for the job. The school’s integrity has even been called into question which charges of political bias stemming from Thrasher’s candidacy. Prior to the suspension of Friday’s meeting College of Music Assistant Professor Michael Buchler argued against interviewing a applicants with political ties, like Thrasher, Tallahassee state Representative Michelle Rehwinkle-Vasilinda and Florida Supreme Court Justice Ricky Polston.
“None of them has lived life as a full-time professor. None has the management experience needed to run a huge, multi-faceted university. None fulfills a majority of the qualifications this committee approved and put online.," Buchler said.
Vasilinda and Polston did not make the final cut. But the school’s interim President Garnett Stokes did. So did Thrasher. An attempt to remove his name from the list by faculty and student members of the search committee failed.
Other candidates for the job are: Michael Amidiris, Provost of the University of South Carolina, Daniel Fogel, former president of the University of Vermont, Arthur Ellis, Provost, City University of Hong Kong, Richard Marchase, who temporarily headed the University of Alabama, Michael Martin, current Chancellor of the Colorado State University System, Michelle Wheatley, Provost of West Virginia University and Murray Gibson, Dean of the College of Science at Northwestern University. Kate Miller, a Dean at Texas A&M University and John Paul Jones a Dean at the University of Arizona.
The Search committee will begin interviewing the candidates Monday with a goal of sending three names to the FSU Board of Trustees to consider for the presidency later in the month.