Florida’s system oversight board has confirmed state Senator John Thrasher as Florida State University’s new president. But his appointment to head the second-largest public university in Florida still isn’t without controversy.
About 50 students are standing on the steps of the Westcott Building, protesting among other things, John Thrasher’s confirmation as FSU’s new President.
It’s become rather common to see students railing against the presidential search they claim was rigged. But Thursday, during his confirmation hearing before the Florida Board of Governors, Thrasher said he’s working to build relationships with the faculty at FSU.
“I think we’ve made progress in that area. Granted, there are concerns. But I believe with communication and a better understanding of who I am, and what I think I can do for Florida State University, I think we can overcome most of it," Thrasher told the BOG.
He plans to meet with the students next week. Thrasher, a powerful state Senator who also chaired the re-election campaign of Governor Rick Scott, is passionate about his alma mater. But many faculty and students see his close ties to the school and political work—such as backing bills eliminating teacher tenure—as a threat. Thrasher is working to convince them otherwise. He plans to meet with students next week. But the hearings surrounding FSU’s search were toxic. And Thursday, FSU Board of Trustees Chairman Allen Bense, admitted the search could have gone better.
“I learned in my life, if you do great things, be quiet. And if you mess up, fess up. And I will tell you that we did not do the best job on this search to begin with. We did a less than spectacular job, and I will take full responsibility for it," he said.
While members of the Board of Governors unanimously approved Thrasher’s appointment to head FSU, Board Member Dean Colson expressed concerns about the legislature-to-university pipeline and the tendancy of lawmakers to seek out university jobs when they leave.
“That’s especially true in Florida where so many of our elected officials have a passion for higher education. That passion is to be celebrated and applauded. But we have to be careful to never let a president’s job at a university become the expected reward for a lifetime of good service.”
Colson says the goal of a search is to find the best qualified person and that only happens when searches are perceived to be open and fair.
The Board also took up the confirmation of a new president for the University of Florida.
Kent Fuchs (pronounced FOX) will lead the UF Speaking Thursday, Board of Governors member Tom Koontz said the school took its time to find a person who matched all its criteria.
“I think we are fortunate to have a person of the caliber, and individual and who will come in and say the University of Florida should be a top 5 university and say it with conviction," Koontz says. "We’re lucky to have you and it goes both ways. You’re lucky to become a part of the University of Florida and our system.”
Both UF and FSU held lengthy presidential searches. FSU choose to go with an established politician who can navigate the legislature while UF opted for a seasoned academic.