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FSU President Thrasher Starts Mending Fences During First Week

John Thrasher

Former State Senator John Thrasher assumed his new role as President of Florida State University this week.  Thrasher says running a university is far different from running the legislature, and all of his actions are being scrutinized.

As John Thrasher’s new role as FSU President was confirmed, a group of about 50 students continued their protests against him. An FSU representative told the students Thrasher would meet with them, and Monday when he walked in for his first official day as president he did. The students came with a list of demands to the former state Senator. Thrasher told the students he’d need time to review the list. The hour-long exchange left graduate student Ralph Wilson, less than impressed.

“We have to harness the power that students have, and thanks to people like John Thrasher and politicians, it's a decreasing amount of power that students have," Wilson said.

These students have protested the presidential search process, FSU’s contracts with the Koch foundation, and have blasted the way the university has responded to a federal investigation into sexual assault allegations against the school’s star quarterback. But, there are more than 40,000 other students at Florida State. There's also faculty and staff, and Thrasher has been reaching out to them as well. He’s been reintroducing himself to Florida State, and trying to put the recent past behind him.

That includes the presidential search process. It has widely been acknowledged as flawed by many, including a person Thrasher calls a friend, Board of Governors Member Dean Colson.

“I think Senator Thrasher will be a really good president. My biggest regret is that we did not arrived at this moment following a search process that all constituencies feel good about," Colson said at the time. "I think Senator Thrasher could have emerged as the best qualified candidate from such a process. If that had happened, the university and its new president, would have been better served.”

Colson’s remarks came during Thrasher’s confirmation hearing before the Board of Governors. Thrasher says Colson made a good point, and he's "ready to move on."

“Measure me as president by the work I do and our performance, and how we do. I’m perfectly willing to have that measurement made.”

Thrasher, a former House Speaker and powerful legislative leader says the transition to university president has included a steep learning curve.

 “In this job, you have an enormous amount of responsibility, and a lot of entities out there your really don’t have a lot of control over. And we have this concept of shared governance. But the president has to assimilate all of that and it’s a lot different in that respect. Sometimes challenging, but on the other hand…they’re talented people who have this institutions best interest at heart.”

Thrasher’s zeal for Florida State is well-known--FSU’s Medical School is named after him. But he’s got a lot of work to do. He’s got to finish off the school’s billion dollar donor campaign started under former President Eric Barron. The university is $600 million of the way there. He’s also got to help increase FSU’s national ranking—which slid this year, and most importantly, help the school recover from what’s been a rough year in the public eye.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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