Monday, June 30, 2014

Meeting the New Search Firm, Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I had the opportunity to meet with the new search firm consultant Alberto Pimentel twice last week, and he appears to be a straight shooter. He seems sincere in his promise of a clean search, for indeed he did not have to take on this gig that could potentially affect his reputation as it potentially has his predecessor Bill Funk.  I had asked him how he planned to rebuild trust in the process, and of course the primary way to do so is to a) bring integrity back to the process and b) stick to his word and not play politics. I am counting on him to do both.

I think it is clear to Mr. Pimentel that the primary problem with the search thus far was the flagrant violations of process. Academics care about the process, for the process SHOULD lead us to the most qualified candidates. When the process is usurped by political cronyism and arrogance, our sensibilities are more than offended.

This was also clear in the meeting with the faculty on June 25th. Several of the more than 40 faculty members who attended made it clear that while we are glad that we have a new search firm and a consultant who seems to understand the importance of integrity in the process, the Presidential Search Advisory Committee remains the same. That is, the same folks who voted to violate process by interviewing only one person who hadn’t even applied yet are still on the committee. The faculty and students are still underrepresented on a committee filled with outside interests—mostly political. Though Pimentel doesn’t think the committee will be reset (and the BOT meeting on the 27th made this clear as well), the fact remains that political interests still rule the Search Advisory Committee, and, as I have said and Pimentel said as well, the only way to combat this is for faculty TO SHOW UP! Yes, I’m yelling for emphasis. We need to be sure to show up to everything and make our voices heard! We need to go to all of the meetings in September that we can possibly go to. We need to give the Committee and everyone else we can think of feedback, especially after the on campus interviews Sept. 15-18. We need to ask the candidates the hard questions. We need to let the Committee and the press and the state and the nation know that we are engaged and care deeply about this university and the direction that it needs to go. We need to remain vigilant and vocal. That’s essential.

Pimentel also made it clear that if someone tries to manipulate the process, he will stop that person from doing so and make that attempted manipulation public. Knowing that the presumptive political candidate has already met with decision-makers in one-on-one meetings, I was happy to hear that Pimentel agreed that doing so is not appropriate unless everyone is afforded the same opportunities. And someone asked me if it was legal for candidates to meet with decision-makers (that is, PSAC members and BOT members) in private, for the search is supposed to be public. If anyone knows the answer to this, please let me know.

Pimentel also made it clear that the faculty has sent a strong message—we want an academic as our president. This, he says, is why no one cares about what happened the last few weeks other than as a point of gossip. That is, no one cares that the process was so screwed up now that it has been righted. I took this to mean that the flawed search hasn’t scared qualified applicants away from applying for the position now that we have a deadline and a new search firm that has made a commitment to a clean search. But I think a few people read this as a negative, for it sounded like he was dismissing the damage that the violation of process has done to faculty morale and trust in this search. Again, to me this means we need to remain even more vigilant and continue to encourage the best, most qualified candidates we know to apply. You can nominate candidates by contacting Pimentel at

As a reminder, most candidates will apply at the last minute—September 2—and Pimentel said he even advises candidates to wait until the last minute due to the fact that names will become public shortly thereafter.  This is extremely important for everyone to remember. While some folks will suggest that the lack of applications before the deadline means no one qualified has applied, it is indeed normal for people to wait until the deadline to apply--which is why the deadline is so crucial to the process.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Presidential Search Advisory Committee Meeting June 20, 2014

The Presidential Search Advisory Committee met yesterday, this time with even fewer members of the Committee actually in the room than last week’s meeting (and again, the Chair was not physically present) and many more on the phone. As faculty and students suggested during the public comment, with a Committee of 27, this is quite disconcerting, especially when making such important decisions regarding the search timeline. It was also disconcerting that the public comment came AFTER the timeline decision was made. As many of the public comments suggested, the timeline is way too brief to make such a critical decision.

While I am glad to hear that there is finally an application deadline, which is now September 2, the timeline suggests that a final decision would be made just 20 days later. The timeline includes only 4 days for on-campus interviews (September 15-18) for however many candidates the Committee decides to bring back to campus after interviewing potential candidates September 8 & 9. The search firm wanted to do "airport" interviews on September 8 & 9, but the Chair said the interviews would be on campus.

The reason given for this quick deadline was open government laws. That is, potential last minute candidates would only be in the Sunshine for a brief period of time, so I guess this means less time for the potential candidates to receive presumably negative responses at their home institutions once folks know that they are applying elsewhere. Others suggest that this timeline is political, so a decision would be made long before Election Day, and as we know, Sen. Thrasher remains the front-runner even with the changes to the search (see the AP’s Gary Fineout’s Tweets from yesterday as well as Tia Mitchell’s article here and Doug Blackburn's article here). 

The search firm will be on campus next week, with a Faculty Open Forum scheduled Wednesday, June 25, from 9:45 – 11:15 a.m. in the Turnbull Center. As I stated in my comments yesterday, I certainly hope that the search firm, after meeting with FSU constituents, will revise the job description and the job ad to be more in line with the needs of FSU and, frankly, to design a more professional ad that includes complete sentences and the final deadline. It is unclear whether the criteria adopted by the Committee in April will be used, but if they aren’t, I think most constituents would insist upon even stronger language regarding distinguished academic credentials and academic leadership experience (see for example the article in the FSView with the giant headline: What Students Want: Another Eric Barron).

Please plan to attend the forums with the search firm that are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday (click here for the schedule). There are forums scheduled for students, staff, and community members as well.

As I said in my comments yesterday, I am encouraged by some of the recent developments and hope that the search process will continue to make moves in the direction of fairness, openness, and transparency. However, concerns about the criteria and the underrepresentation of faculty and students on the search committee remain, and nothing that has been done as of yet has changed the view that there is just one presumptive candidate. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Board of Governors' response to the FSU Search

The following article by Tia Mitchell regarding the Board of Governors’ (BOG) response to the FSU search was posted yesterday:

The article states that BOG “Chairman Mori Hosseini floated a plan today that would result in streamlined, standard practices that all 12 public Florida universities would follow in future presidential searches,” because, as another BOG member Dean Colson said, "I think it’s damaged the national reputation at FSU the way this search has played out.”

The article enumerates the Chairman’s proposed changes as such:

*Increase BOG presence by having additional members participate in university search processes.
*Specify the roles and responsibilities of the BOG, university boards of trustees and presidential search committees.
*Identify common job descriptions and qualifications to ensure universities are recruiting candidates that meet the school’s mission and BOG priorities.
*Establish benchmarks or general timelines to ensure search processes are consistent.
*Create general guidelines for determining the compensation of newly hired presidents.

While I can see why someone would think this necessary, I would sure hope that faculty would be consulted before considering such a thing. The reason why this search was so flawed is because this search was not open and transparent due to a flawed process and, as the evidence seems to suggest, political cronyism.[1]

During the May PSAC meeting, BOG member Edward Morton saw the problem with interviewing just one candidate, explained this to the committee, and voted no to the motion to interview only one person.  He was unfortunately on the losing side, but it looks like the BOG understands the severity of the situation created by the Search Advisory Committee leadership and the previous search firm. Not sure the BOT does.

It appears from what I’ve seen that the UF search is much more adequate. For example, the first 5 criteria listed in the job description are:

*Has an academic background and credentials, including Ph.D. or highest degree in chosen field.
*Is recognized as a national and international scholar of distinction (e.g., is a member of a national academy or institute or a fellow of a major academic society, or has a distinguished record of research).
*Demonstrates a record of meaningful accomplishments in executive leadership of and decision-making in complex organizations, and has a strong record of innovation and transformation.
*Has experience in an administrative leadership position at a major university.
*Will have respect and influence among AAU and other peer organizations and institutions.[2

Compare this to the FSU Presidential Position announcement [3]. Also compare the UF preamble to "Qualifications and Criteria for UF’s Next President" at to the FSU preamble to the "Preferred Qualities and Characteristics" in the longer job description located on the FSU Presidential Search website,

While I'm at it, another concern that I have is the FSU Search Chair has not sent emails to let FSU constituents know when and where the Search Advisory Committee meetings are being held, the agenda of these meetings, or the progression of the search other than to tell us that the flawed search is now open again. This lack of communication does not suggest openness. I hope for UF's sake that the Chair of its search remains in contact with UF constituents as the search progresses.[4]

Again, I suppose I can see why the BOG would want to step in and streamline searches due to the embarrassment caused by this flawed search, but it’s not so simple as each of the universities have different missions and traditions. The problem seems to be more about politics than anything else. I hope that the BOG would invite multiple constituencies to participate in any decision-making regarding presidential searches, and I’d probably be the first to volunteer to be involved in such an effort.

According to an update to Mitchell's article, there is a BOG study in the works, and I again hope that faculty are involved in the process.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Or maybe it's not a 'real' meeting...

I heard from a reliable source this evening that a note went to the Search Advisory Committee today stating that the meeting tomorrow is a conference call. If this is the case, then this is quite odd for several reasons: 1. Why did the website state earlier this week that the meeting was a conference call that would originate in 208 Turnbull, but on Wednesday the language on the website changed, now stating that a public meeting would be held in 208 Turnbull? There's a huge difference there. I doubt anyone would look at the current language on the Presidential Search website and think that the meeting would be by conference call. 2. So if it is a phone meeting, that means that the public will be there, but the Committee will not. What kind of meeting is that? 3. This is even more curious because the agenda was posted this evening and includes public comment. Seems odd to stand at a microphone to address a Committee that isn't actually present. 4. If you were at the last meeting or watched it streaming, you know that the sound quality was quite problematic, and as such, we couldn't understand what the Search Chair and other members of the Committee who dialed in were saying. That makes for a very difficult and confusing meeting.

To be frank, I don't know what to expect tomorrow. It may actually be a hybrid meeting like last time with some Committee members in the room and some on the phone. With such a large Committee, I suppose it is inevitable that some would need to call in, but when many are on the phone, it makes for an awkward meeting. Seems to me a smaller committee would have fewer issues.

The lack of communication between the Committee and the FSU community is a major issue, one that I think needs to be addressed immediately. To expect stakeholders to consistently monitor the website for information is problematic. The last minute posting of agendas is another concern. But, all of this means it is even more important for stakeholders to attend the meeting so that it is clear to everyone involved that we are still watching.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

There's a 'real' meeting Friday June 20

Just a quick note to say that the Presidential Search Advisory Committee meeting that was originally scheduled as a phone conference is now scheduled as a public meeting for this Friday, June 20, from 11-12 in 208 Turnbull Center. The agenda hasn't been posted, but I'm assuming the timeline will be discussed at this meeting. 

At the last meeting, a colleague who unfortunately couldn't make it to the meeting sent me a text quoting a colleague of his from another university who noted that Eric Cantor is now available to apply for president. I think this would be funnier if it didn't hit so close to home. Take a look at this article by the AP's Gary Fineout who points out the political connections of the search committee. As we've been saying from the beginning, the search committee make-up is extremely problematic, and this article notes some of the reasons why.

I am still hearing that a politician as president is necessary because we need to be able to get additional money from the Legislature. Why is it, then, that the other preeminent university in Florida is committed to hiring a distinguished academic rather than a politician? See the following note sent to UF constituents this week: THIS is the kind of search so many of us have been pushing for, and we need to keep the pressure on if we are going to get it. If you'd like to contact the BOT and you are using Outlook or a similar email service, you can click here: Send email to the BOT

I hope that all faculty and students and alumni and concerned supporters will plan to attend the meeting Friday. We need to show that we are still watching. There have been quite a few people nominated in the last week, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they'll apply. If you know anyone who is qualified to apply, please encourage them to do so.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Presidential Search Advisory Committee Meeting, June 11, 2014

Yesterday’s meeting was quite eventful as the Committee voted to bring in another search firm, Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates. This firm was interviewed at the first Presidential Search Advisory Committee meeting on March 21. The firm highlighted its commitment to diversity at that meeting, and I don’t know much else about the firm besides what was said at that meeting. I am a bit ambivalent about a new search firm. On the one hand, I think it is important to have someone on your side that has ties to the academic community and can work its networks to encourage highly qualified candidates. On the other hand, unless this firm has a plan to work around the “long shadow” front-runner and to rebuild trust in the process, then it seems like a huge waste of FSU money.

What was also noteworthy to me about the meeting: a) how few PSAC members showed up at this important meeting and b) how little time was devoted to public comment.

I was struck by the number of people missing, especially the Chair of the PSAC and the Chair of the BOT, both of whom called in. It was announced that some people were on a Boosters' cruise, and I heard that another prominent member of the Committee was at a fishing tournament. This strikes me as very, very odd considering that a) this meeting was supposed to be Senator Thrasher’s interview and b) this meeting date was set many months ago. They didn’t know about the cruise when they set the meeting, a meeting that has been scheduled for months? And a fishing tournament is more important than a search for the president of one of two of Florida’s preeminent universities? (I sure hope my source was wrong—this is so unacceptable in my book.) But the faculty members on the Committee were present and were vocal, and I thank them for their service on this Committee.

I was also awfully surprised that public comment was limited to 10 minutes at the beginning of a meeting scheduled for three hours, and each speaker was given only 2 minutes to speak. The reasoning given by Chairman Burr was that the Committee had a lot to do, but even with the 10 minutes of discussion, and the additional 10 minutes that was prompted by my Communication colleague in the audience and motioned by one of the faculty members on the Committee, the meeting was over in a little more than an hour. Why limit stakeholders to just 10 minutes? If it is clear that we are all going to say the same thing (it was said that they'd choose "representatives" from the different groups to speak), then perhaps it's time to really listen, no? And what about the alumnus who took off work to come here from Tampa to be limited to just two minutes to speak? Was there anyone else in line to speak who didn’t have the opportunity?  I thought BOT Chair Bense had said that he had wanted to hear from everyone, but the motion on the floor was 10 minutes, so time remained limited. Limiting the voices of the FSU community is very disheartening, but those who spoke had a clear message. The search process needs to be reset.

As the Board of Governor’s member Mr. Morton suggested, the PSAC and BOT definitely need to rebuild trust in the search. Limiting community voices doesn’t invoke trust, and neither did the implication that the timeline would be decided by the new search firm and Ed Burr rather than discussed and decided in an open meeting. I think that was resolved, though it was very difficult to understand Chairman Burr at that point as we could only hear every other word coming from the members of the Committee who dialed in.

A reset of the search means more than a new search firm. A solid application deadline and clear timeline, adherence to the criterion regarding a distinguished academic with leadership skills as presented by the Faculty Senate, and additional representation of faculty and students on the search committee would move us closer. I also hope that the new search firm plans to meet with stakeholders as Funk did but this time listen carefully to faculty and student input more than the input of politicos involved in the process. As we know, even the appearance of impropriety taints the legitimacy of the search. This is why a true reset of the search is necessary. 

And I must say kudos to all of the students, the faculty, and the alumnus who spoke and the many who attended the meeting. Your voices were heard by the press and the Committee, and your presence was extremely important.[1][2][3][4][5] We are clearly making a difference. I encourage all of you and those who couldn’t attend to continue to post comments on the presidential search website and to email the PSAC and the BOT with your comments and nominations. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

FIU Faculty Senate Resolution

I just received word that the FIU Faculty Senate unanimously passed the following resolution today:

The Faculty Senate of Florida International University expresses its support for the Faculty Senate of Florida State University in its opposition to a fatally flawed and non-transparent presidential search process, and in its call for an extension of the application deadline to September, for consideration only of applicants with strong academic credentials, and for the Board of Trustees of FSU to give strong consideration to the votes of faculty and students on the presidential search committee.

I'd like to personally thank the FIU faculty for the strong support in our quest for a fair, open, ethical, and transparent search. This means a lot to us.

The UFF-FSU also sent out a press statement today regarding our petition to reset the search; the petition has more than 1,400 names. You can find the statement on our website,

Monday, June 9, 2014

Search Firm Resignation

Just a quick post to note that earlier today, R William Funk & Associates withdrew from the FSU Presidential search. For more information, please see

As I state in this article, perhaps this, coupled with the "re-opening" of the search, are the first steps toward a more open, fair, and transparent search process. But again, more work needs to be done to reset the search. The resolutions passed by the Faculty Senate provide some guidance that I hope the Presidential Search Advisory Committee will follow when it meets Wednesday, June 11, at 10am in 208 Turnbull Center on the FSU campus.

For additional information about the search firm:
A copy of the memo can be found here:

An Inside Higher Ed article about the search firm and the Faculty Senate resolution stating no confidence in the firm can be found here:

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Wow, what a rumor...

I was poking around on Twitter today and came across the most interesting tweet:

(to see the full story, go to: )

So it appears that this story is written with tongue firmly in cheek, but as satire often does, it points out a few things worth considering.

First, we have become a bit of a national joke. Someone told me that there is a cartoon going around Facebook that has Charles Manson applying for the FSU presidency position as well.

Second, this is the type of scholar the committee should be looking for.  Not necessarily a union president (although that of course gives him extra marks in my book), but someone with a proven record of ACADEMIC leadership.

Rudy Fichtenbaum is a professor of economics at Wright State University who was elected AAUP president in 2012. His research focuses "on topics such as discrimination, income distribution, and the impact of unions on wages and benefits."[1][2] He certainly fits most of the criteria--except loyalty to FSU!

Again, it seems rather unlikely that this letter is the genuine article. Why would Funk forward a candidate who is the polar opposite of the current front-runner?  From a staunch conservative politician known for facing off with unions of all stripes to an academic union president?  However, politics aside, Dr. Fichtenbaum has the  type of academic credentials and leadership experience that would make him the kind of candidate a university should consider in terms of a national scholar and leader who understands the needs of a university and who can work with many different constituencies.

Clever satire, but I can't help but wonder, especially because the rumors we have heard so far in this affair have a habit of being true (and perhaps we should encourage Fichtenbaum to apply!). Either way, perhaps, just perhaps, we are seeing a seismic shift in this affair.

Friday, June 6, 2014

After the June 4 Faculty Senate Meeting

I’ve had faculty members and students ask me if I think that the newly re-“opened” search is really an “open” search. I want to say yes, but I’m afraid I can’t, especially because nothing else has changed regarding process--yet. In fact, a colleague sent me the following message from a friend of his who is a knowledgeable source familiar with Florida politics: 

"The feeling out here is that this is a smokescreen to temper any more demand from other candidates like the Chief Justice.  Also to salvage Funk's reputation and career as a head hunter (and collect his check).  Then there's all the protesters and naysayers.  No expectation that the outcome will [won't] be the same.  Still hoping for a miracle to save FSU from itself."

Well, I think this assessment  is fair, but I don't think we necessarily need a miracle. We just need to continue putting pressure on the Board of Trustees (BOT) and the Presidential Search Advisory Committee (PSAC) leadership to do the right thing and reset the search. The Faculty Senate’s emergency meeting Wednesday was a critical step, and I applaud the Senators for their thoughtful and careful deliberations. In my view, the resolutions that passed are extremely important in the pursuit for a fair, open, and transparent search, including the need for a September deadline (a hard deadline!), so that more faculty and students can be involved in the interview process (and potential candidates can know when to apply); the need for at least three candidates to interview; the need for more serious consideration of the views of the faculty, students, staff, and administrators on the PSAC; the need to appoint a President who has “Distinguished intellectual stature with strong academic credentials, proven leadership abilities, and a successful record in senior management,” which is one of the criteria that the PSAC had approved at the April meeting that disappeared in the job ad; and the vote of no confidence in the search firm.[1][2]

Let’s keep up the pressure and let the decision-makers know that faculty voices will not be silenced. If you haven’t signed the petition (, please do, or send me a note if you’d like that I can print out for the PSAC and BOT ( Please plan to attend and encourage colleagues and other FSU stakeholders to attend the June 11 meeting at 10am in 208 Turnbull. Wouldn’t it be something if we could pack that room as a visual demonstration of our demands for a fair and open search that protects the integrity of our university? 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

It ain't over til it's over--but at least a minute to breathe

Before I saw the email from Search Advisory Committee Chair Ed Burr yesterday evening, I had received an email from a reporter with the news that the interview with Senator Thrasher had been postponed. I have to admit that I did a little happy dance because slowing down the process was absolutely essential. Thanks to all of you, and to all who wrote to the Search Advisory Committee and the BOT and who signed the petition and who wrote letters to the editor and who demanded a fair and open search process for the next president of this university. Your hard work has helped slow down the train.

However, our work is definitely not done. Though the interview with Thrasher may not happen next week, all of the other components of the flawed search remain in place. They haven’t reset the search—they’ve only postponed the interview with promises of an open search (and some Committee members apparently disagree with slowing down the process[1]). We must continue to be vigilant, and I urge all faculty members, students, alumni, and community members who planned to attend the June 11 meeting to stick with your plans and attend the June 11 meeting to show that we are watching and that our voices will be heard. We still need to work our networks to encourage the best and most qualified candidates to apply as well because—let’s be honest—this postponement benefits the frontrunner as well as he now has more time to lobby even harder to become president and to attempt to deflect criticism of his record (and if what the rumor mill is saying is true, and so far it’s been pretty accurate, the Senator is continuing to meet with individual decision-makers--and, if true, this seems to be awfully inappropriate, especially if other candidates are not afforded the same opportunities).

And if the decision to hold up the interview was really because Ricky Polston applied and is now being considered a qualified applicant by the Committee leadership, as the Tallahassee Democrat is reporting, then we definitely need to encourage our academic colleagues to apply for loyalty to FSU will obviously continue to be the rallying cry for Florida's political folks applying for the position.[2][3

I have to say that even with this victory I still have very little confidence in the search process if all else remains the same—a ridiculous job ad, a search firm that stated publicly that it wasn't able to find qualified candidates due to Thrasher, who remains a candidate,[4] a search committee in which only 7 of 27 members are faculty members and students, the lack of distinguished academic credentials as the primary criterion, and a fuzzy deadline (that presumably will be determined at the June 11 meeting—and perhaps we should encourage the Committee to extend the deadline until September when more faculty and students can be involved in the interview process). We have a motivated and qualified interim president who will continue to lead us toward the path of the top 25 in the meantime, so there’s absolutely no need to rush the process. Again, take a look at UF’s timeline to see that rushing is not necessary or desirable.[5]

So please plan to attend the June 11 meeting at 10am in 208 Turnbull Center to let the Committee leadership know, once again, what we want in terms of a qualified presidential candidate. The agenda has not been posted yet, but I am hoping that there will be time for public comment at this meeting as well.