Thrasher To Interview For FSU Presidency Over Objections By Faculty, Students

May 21, 2014

Credit Florida Senate

Update 7:oo p.m.: Bill Funk has been called the “guru of higher education recruiting” by the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Florida State University has hired him to help find a new president. But Wednesday he told the university’s search committee the task has been made more complicated by the candidacy of Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine. 

“To be in the public with someone who cast such a long shadow over the process, really limited the interest of these individuals,” said Funk.

FSU’s presidential search committee is going along with Funk’s recommendation to bring Thrasher in for an immediate interview. Funk says, were Thrasher to be eliminated as a presidential prospect now, it would encourage others to apply. But FSU Faculty Search Committee member Cliff Madsen says, speeding up the process to grant Thrasher an interview is out of the norm:

“I’ve been on the last I don’t know how many searches that produced Sandy D’Alemberte, T.K. Wetherell, back before that and everywhere in between, and this from my perspective is highly irregular,” he said.

The FSU Faculty Union has issued a letter saying its lost confidence in the search process and believes it has been rigged in favor of Thrasher. Also opposing the Senator’s candidacy are students.

“Last month or two months ago we held a forum at the University where students and faculty could come and speak to Mr. Funk about how we felt what our next president should have,” said Jerry Funt, a student and president of FSU’s Progress Coalition.

“One thing we said throughout both meetings is that we did not want someone with political ties," he said.

But others on the presidential search committee are backing Thrashers bid. Former Tallahassee Democratic State Sen. Al Lawson says he does not believe Thrasher should bow to external pressure to step aside.

“I couldn’t really entertain a motion that asks someone as significant to pull their hat out of the ring because of the people who applied.” said Lawson.

Thrasher has not formally applied for the job but has been nominated several times most recently by former Florida State University president Sandy D’Alembert.

“I’ve seen how effective he can be with the legislature and I think a major task for Florida State University right now is to get our level of State support restored," D'Alemberte said. "FSU has been stripped of resources since the time I served as president.” 

On Wednesday the search committee voted 15 to 9 to interview Thrasher over the objections of the faculty and students. The interview will take place June 11th at 10 a.m.

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Senator John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, will get his day before the Florida State University Presidential Search Committee.

Thrasher was the sole candidate to be picked to interview for the school's top job. The firm hired to do the search said it has had a hard time attracting applicants for the position due to Thrasher's name being circulated for months as a potential candidate.

“When what I call premium potential candidates were contacted, it was John Thrasher who they read about in the Tallahassee papers," said search consultant Bill Funk. "It was John Thrasher that their connections in the state of Florida shared with them that they thought it was John’s job," Funk told the search committee.

Thrasher hasn't formally apply for the position but has been recommended several times, most recently by former FSU President Sandy D'Alemberte. The Tallahassee Democrat was the first to report D'Alemberte's nomination.

FSU's presidential search committee voted 15-9 to bring Thrasher in for an interview. The university's faculty senate and students protested the move.

"As this process began, there were numerous accounts in the media indicating that this search was merely for appearances’ sake and that FSU's new president had already been selected behind closed doors," says a statement released by the United Faculty of Florida-Florida State University Chapter. "We trusted the rebuttals of those involved with the search, we believed the assertions that the search would be open, fair, and include faculty input, and we operated accordingly, providing input at any opportunity we had. We now believe that there is ample evidence indicating that this process is not being conducted fairly, is not open and transparent, and is ignoring the needs of the faculty, students and taxpayers."

The organization says it has lost confidence in the search process.