Wednesday, July 23, 2014

This week's press

On Sunday, the Tallahassee Democrat's editorial called for a reconsideration of headhunter Bill Funk's suggestion that the elephant in the room needs to be dealt with before the FSU president search can continue (or whether it needs to):

This appears to come on the heels of Gary Fineout's article that suggested that the search remains a sham.[1]

Dr. Michael Buchler's My View response printed in today's Democrat clearly explains why this suggestion was and remains highly problematic:

I am trying to understand the argument as to why Thrasher's candidacy needs to be dealt with separately, but come on, folks, the deadline for applications isn't until September 2. For the hundredth time, applications will likely come in on the 2nd--and the new headhunter said he would encourage people to wait until the 2nd to apply. Just because no new apps have arrived since the "re-opening" of the search doesn't mean they won't arrive at the last minute. And I'm still not totally convinced that academics will not apply--especially knowing the criticism regarding the frontrunner for the position. However, the ad posted in The Chronicle on Monday definitely does leave the door wide open for non-traditional candidates:

If Thrasher wants to remain a candidate, then he needs to be vetted just like any other candidate--through the proper search format. But if the fix is still in, then the BOT and PSAC's leadership's empty rhetoric and commitment to political cronyism will be exposed once and for all and they'll have wasted all of our time--and additional money--with a sham search. The results of both can be devastating for this university that has worked so hard the last four years to increase its academic acumen. Indeed, if the fix is still in, the question remains: is a university in which faculty and students have no power in decision making really a university that values "excellence in teaching, research, creative endeavors, and service and strives to instill the strength, skill, and character essential for lifelong learning, personal responsibility, and sustained achievement within a community that fosters free inquiry and embraces diversity," as the FSU mission statement reads? Or is it a business that happens to teach some classes on the side? Or is it just another arm of the political establishment in Florida?

If the leadership truly cares about this university, then more needs to be done to ensure a fair, open, and transparent process, including increased faculty, student and staff representation on the PSAC and a commitment to leadership with academic experience in teaching, research, and administration. As has been said by various folks, including the Democrat, maybe it is time for Thrasher to consider withdrawing his application: the search is still viewed as a sham, and the implication that a Thrasher presidency is due to cronyism rather than merit and the divisiveness that his candidacy brings will continue to greatly affect the university's reputation.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Position profile posted

The new position profile was posted Thursday and can be found here:

While I think this draft is infinitely better than the profile Funk offered, I have to agree with a faculty member who suggested that the qualifications as presented are an example of talking out of both sides of one's mouth. And while it has been suggested that this new profile would likely discourage non-traditional (i.e., political) candidates from applying or from pursing their applications because it is more academically-minded, the way the position reads now, the qualifications are preferred, not expected. Again, a much much better profile, but it still leaves me a bit wary of what is to come. But, I suppose being cautious is to be expected given all that has happened so far, and I do hope that the best-qualified candidates will apply even with the specter of a presumptive candidate still haunting the search. I'm quite curious to see what the focus of the condensed version of the ad that will be placed in The Chronicle and other outlets will be.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

BOT Meetings Scheduled in August Postponed

The FSU Board of Trustees meetings scheduled for August 26 & 27 have been postponed until after the PSAC makes its final decision on September 22. This is disappointing because we thought we'd have another chance to speak publicly to the BOT before applications are due and the 20-day whirlwind of meetings and interviews begins.

Monday, July 14, 2014

AP Article: FSU warned that new search could be a "sham"

I just finished reading this article by Gary Fineout:

So if I’m reading this right, the fix was in and still is in, eh? As I’ve said before, I had heard that Thrasher had been meeting individually with Trustees and PSAC members, which I personally find problematic because most presidential candidates—i.e., academics--do not have the influence or the gumption to try to manipulate the process.  And others have said that by insisting that there are three candidates, some members of the BOT are betting on Thrasher being one of those three candidates rather than being the ONLY candidate, and being the only candidate certainly looks bad, as the PSAC and BOT have seen.

And let me remind everyone why we had such weak candidate pool--there was NO DEADLINE and an extremely problematic ad that showed that the university's priority was provincialism, not academics.

But yes, I suppose this search can still be called a sham because the search committee has yet to be reconstituted to include greater representation of faculty, students and staff—those who are directly affected by the daily decisions made by the FSU administration.  And the BOT has not made a commitment to searching for a distinguished academic with higher education leadership experience, even though the other preeminent university in this state has made such a commitment in its search for its next president.

A search committee with as many politicians and business people as the PSAC has still makes little sense to me. Are we a political institution? Are we a corporation?  Or are we an institute of higher learning that is committed to academic excellence? If we want to reach the top 25, we need to start thinking like a top 25 university, not as an extension of the Capitol or of increased corporatization and privatization.  We need a strong president with academic credentials who understands the academy—where it has been and where it is going—in order to understand how best to work with the many constituencies the university has, including potential donors and legislators. To hire someone exclusively as a fundraiser is short-sighted and will likely be detrimental in terms of the strides this university made under President Barron.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Update on last post

I heard from Mr. Pimentel late last night, and here's the scoop. He has completed conversations with each of the BOT members, and he is currently working on the new position profile and ad. These documents will be sent to the BOT and PSAC members for review and comment, and the revised version should be posted to the FSU Presidential Search website sometime next week.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Still waiting on new position profile

Just a quick post to note that the revised position profile has not yet been updated on the presidential search website, (as of 10pm July 10) (and there have been no updates posted since June 20). I sent an email to PSAC Chair Ed Burr and to the new search firm's Alberto Pimentel yesterday morning regarding the timeline for posting the position, and I have not heard back yet. It's been two weeks since we met with the search firm, and I thought that I heard that the profile would be posted in a week's time, but perhaps I misheard or something else is holding it up. It didn't sound like the profile would be publicly vetted as it was last time. It sounded like decisions would be made by the PSAC via email, which, if that is the case, and it appears to be since no other meetings have been posted, is quite unfortunate as we would not be privy to the discussion.

I also heard from several sources that one of the members of the PSAC has resigned, but as far as I know this has not yet been made public. Not sure why.

I also wanted to point out a couple recent editorials about the search and the Sunshine argument:

"Sunshine is Not the Problem in FSU Search":

"Don't Dim Sunshine for FSU":

I agree wholeheartedly with the authors that more transparency is necessary, not less. Arguing that decisions like this need to be made behind closed doors should make us pause. Frankly, it downright scares the hell out of me--especially after seeing the political maneuvering and posturing that has happened in the Sunshine! Imagine if what has happened so far in this search happened without our knowledge, without the spotlight of the public eye. In a university such as ours that values faculty governance, the thought of not knowing what's going on behind closed doors regarding the leader of the university should certainly concern us. And, without updates regarding the position profile or any other developments, well, let's just say my curiosity is piqued.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Board of Trustees Meeting June 27, 2014

The Board of Trustees meeting agenda included an update on the Presidential Search; public comment was not on the agenda, but we found out about 15 minutes before the meeting that there would indeed be one. Fortunately, a few of us had comments prepared just in case.

Before public comment, though, the BOT discussed the search. A motion to present three presidential finalists to the BOT (as opposed to just one) passed, and a discussion of whether the BOT should be more involved in the search ensued. I think the answer to the latter was no, let the PSAC do its job, which would make sense since the BOT ultimately decides on the president anyway, not the Search Advisory Committee.

The public comment included a call for the BOT to make a commitment to a distinguished academic with higher ed leadership experience like the UF BOT has done, but that didn’t happen.

The public comment also called for greater representation of faculty and students on the PSAC, but that didn’t happen, either.

The public comment also called for members of the PSAC with connections to the Koch Brothers and ALEC to step down from the committee (a call based in part on the controversy regarding the Koch Foundation deal with FSU [1]), but perhaps not surprisingly, that didn’t happen, either. One of the members of the BOT became quite outraged and said that the request to ask people with conflicts to step down was "insulting," especially because faculty members are “paid by FSU” while BOT members are not. Not sure how that relates to asking PSAC members to voluntarily step down due to conflicts of interest, but fortunately, another member of the BOT explained the importance of discourse, debate, free speech, and the rights of faculty and students to present their viewpoints in front of the BOT.  

While it sounds great that three finalists will be presented to the BOT, the lack of commitment to an academician to lead the university and a PSAC that has already voted to interview only one candidate seem to suggest that if one of the three finalists is the presumptive political candidate, some say he has enough votes on the BOT to become the next president, despite the call from students and faculty for another Eric Barron.[2]

Please send your nominations to Alberto Pimentel at