Thursday, March 12, 2015

Committee Meeting Re Secrecy Bill, March 10, 2015

On March 10, the House Higher Education and Workforce Subcommittee heard the secrecy bill, HB 223 (companion to SB 182). Again, despite the fact that all of the folks who spoke or waved their time were opposed to the bill, it passed 9-1, with Representative Rehwinkel Vasilinda as the only no vote (and she nailed it in debate!).

I learned a few important things from this meeting, and a few things I knew were evidenced once again: a) more often than not, it appears that the legislators who speak for this bill either didn't read it or didn't read it carefully because they keep saying things that simply aren't correct (e.g., one Representative said that the decision to determine finalists would be in the sunshine, but according to the bill, it would not be); b) It is true, as one of the smartest people I know noted, that rather than legislators’ default position being convince me that the bill is good for the people, the default position is you are going to have a helluva time convincing me to vote against my colleague; c) Legislators seem to think that they know better than the people who actually have first-hand experience with and know an awful lot about the issue or issues at stake; d) At least one legislator thinks that the idea that universities are democratic institutions is “silly,” and that while it’s nice that faculty and students think they should have a seat at the table, the decision is not ours to make (this one did, as WFSU’s Capital Report stated, leave me dumbfounded).

I also found it interesting that one legislator tried to use one of my articles about the FSU presidential search as evidence for the need for secrecy. Anyone who followed my blog or saw my articles in the NEA literature knows damn well that I never suggested that secrecy would be beneficial. But I think what he was referring to was the fact that I said that headhunter Bill Funk argued that no one would apply because then-Senator Thrasher was the front-runner—but then I explained in great detail why that was hogwash. Perhaps he Googled me as I was speaking and only skimmed the first paragraph or two of the article. That tells us all something.

Another interesting statement was that this bill isn't a secrecy bill. It's a confidentiality bill that actually allows for more sunshine because the public has 30 days to vet the finalists. Huh?

Look, this bill isn't about the public interest or attracting more sitting presidents to apply for university positions. It is about keeping us in the dark so we can't complain, allowing for the manipulation of the search process. And it appears that this bill will benefit all those legislators who want a cushy university or college president position after they leave the Legislature. That seems to be a giant conflict of interest if you ask me. But what do I know. I'm just a faculty member.