Thursday, February 19, 2015

My testimony (as prepared) for SB 176 Feb. 2015

Chairman Evers, members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity to speak with you today. And Chairman Evers, thank you again for meeting with us earlier today and your willingness to listen to our concerns.

I oppose this bill because I do not believe that guns on campus will make any of us safer. I was a high school teacher in Colorado Springs, Colorado, when the Columbine tragedy occurred, and I have been following school shootings ever since, including the shooting on the FSU campus. This bill concerns me and many of my colleagues greatly.
In fact, the Florida State University chapter of the United Faculty of Florida passed a resolution opposing this legislation because an increase in deadly firearms on campus will not enhance the safety of our students, faculty, or staff because of the potential increase in collateral damage, accidental shootings, and confusion regarding who the aggressor is in a given situation.

Lieutenant Matthew Rushton of the Bridgewater State University Police Department recently contacted me supporting the faculty union’s opposition to the bill. I would like to read part of his email because it demonstrates some of the major concerns universities and colleges have regarding guns on campus. He said, “Responding officers are faced with making life and death decisions; determining who is an aggressor, who is just trying to flee the scene, and who is looking for help.  All of these groups will typically run at the police as they enter the scene, and are faced with them quickly advancing for a variety of reasons, placing police officers in a position to make a life or death decision in mere seconds.  Having unknown members of the campus community potentially armed will not only lead to confusion for responding officers, but students, staff and others.  Most are not trained in the same active shooter techniques and are not proficient in the use of a firearm against a fluid target.”

With all due respect to the people supporting this bill, I think it is important to note that student organizations such as FSA, faculty organizations that have taken a position, all 12 public universities, the university police chiefs, and the university system itself are all opposed to this change. So I humbly ask all of you here to vote no on this bill and not impose this change on a community that does not need it and does not want it.

My testimony on SB 182 Feb 2015

Madam Chair, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak to this bill. I would like to thank Senator Hays and his staff for being open and listening to my concerns and their willingness to work with us. 

I oppose this bill, though, because secrecy is not in the best interest of our universities and colleges, especially when it comes to choosing the leadership, and the Florida State University chapter of the United Faculty of Florida passed a resolution opposing this bill as well. Florida has strong Sunshine Laws, and should be proud of them, and any exemption to those laws should be unequivocally compelling and narrowly construed. However, there is no real compelling interest here, not enough to exempt the public from records requests and meetings regarding president, provost, and dean searches. While I understand the argument that sitting presidents may not apply because they don’t want their home institutions to know, why would we want a leader who is not open with the faculty, students, staff, alumni, and the people of the state of Florida?
Further, last year, both presidential searches at the two preeminent universities—Florida State University and University of Florida—resulted in strong, well-qualified candidates, this despite the controversy surrounding the FSU search. This included a provost at a peer institution, an interim president from UAB, and the chancellor of the Colorado system who had been president at other institutions, among several other qualified candidates who interviewed for the short list. UF’s short list included a sitting president of a university in the Netherlands, a provost at the Ivy League university Cornell, and a provost at the prestigious NYU.  That’s not to mention all of the excellent presidents, provosts, and deans who have led our institutions of higher learning over the years and who were hired in the sunshine.

An open, honest, transparent search that allows for stakeholder input, including faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents, and community members, and allows for accountability is essential for many reasons, including the ability to vet candidates and ask important questions that the search committee may not ask, especially as the search committees are appointed and not necessarily representative of the university or college community. The taxpayers generously provide for our public colleges and universities, and deserve the right to know how those dollars are being spent and how major decisions that affect these public institutions are made, if they want to know. Faculty should also have a say in these matters, as faculty governance remains one of the hallmarks of great universities.

Searches in the sunshine are not good or bad; experienced and respectable search firms know that such searches are just different, and they know how to recruit strong, well-qualified candidates. Not knowing why the finalists for a presidential position were chosen over the others is a secret that universities and colleges cannot afford and should avoid. I am humbly asking you to vote no to SB 182.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Secrecy and Presidential Searches will be heard Monday

On Monday, February 16, the Senate Higher Education Committee will hear SB 182, which would exempt president, provost, and dean searches from public record and meeting requirements. Considering our recent presidential search process, exempting such searches from Sunshine Laws will lead to even less transparency, openness, and active participation from multiple stakeholders. I encourage you to testify at the Committee meeting scheduled from 4-6pm in 412 Knott Building. If you cannot make it to the meeting but still want your voice heard, feel free to contact the Committee.

Guns on Campus will be heard Monday

On Monday, February 16, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee will hear SB 176, which would allow persons over 21 years of age who have a concealed weapons permit to carry their weapon on college and university campuses. The Committee meets from 4-6pm in 37 Senate Office Building.  I encourage those who are concerned about this bill to plan to testify at this committee meeting. If you are unable to do so but want to have your voices heard, you can contact the members of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.