Florida State University Eyeing Candidates To Replace Retiring President John Thrasher – CBS Miami
TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami / NSF) – As Florida State University seeks a successor to President John Thrasher’s resignation, a committee began polling nine finalists for the job on Friday – as questions about a potential conflict of interest for a high-profile candidate and as a student kicked campaign arose for another.
The university’s Presidential Search Advisory Committee began a two-day process of interviewing the finalists, a mix of politically affiliated local candidates and academics from universities across the country.
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An hour or so of public commentary before the interviews began in the ornate Ruby Diamond Concert Hall included faculty members opposing Richard Corcoran’s application for the job and a student-led group advocating for Tallahassee lawyer and lobbyist Sean Pittman .
Corcoran is a former Florida House spokesman, like Thrasher and the late TK Wetherell, who served as FSU president from 2003 to 2010.
“Corcoran suggests that Presidents Thrasher and Wetherell, who were Florida House spokesmen, also qualify for the job,” said Will Hanley, an FSU history professor. “This is like arguing that we should elect a man to be the next president because former presidents were men. The fact that former presidents were spokespersons does not qualify other speakers for the presidency. “
On Thursday, an FSU accreditation organization questioned whether Corcoran has a potential conflict of interest because he is a member of the board of governors of the state university system.
The Board of Governors must ultimately approve the candidate selected by the FSU Board of Trustees to succeed Thrasher.
Belle Wheelan, president of the College of Universities of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, sent a letter to Syd Kitson, chairman of the board of governors.
In it, Wheelan warned that the school’s accreditation could be considered if Corcoran got the job without resigning from the board of governors.
Kitson responded to Wheelan in a letter Friday, stating that Corcoran was an ex officio board member under the state’s constitution.
“As a voting member, if promoted to the Board of Governors for approval, he must abstain from voting and disclose the nature of his interest prior to the approval meeting in a memorandum filed with our corporate secretary,” Kitson wrote in the letter to Wheelan.
Other faculty members speaking on Friday asked the search committee to recommend someone with experience in higher education rather than a candidate with political ties in Tallahassee.
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“You have the option to send a malicious message through the FSU by selecting finalists who are known for their connections within Florida rather than their experience running universities. Or, you can rise above politics and pick the well-qualified candidates that the FSU deserves. I urge you to do the latter. Universities must not be politicized, ”said Nancy Rogers, music professor.
Several students speaking on Friday attempted to campaign for Pittman’s recruitment, citing a campaign called “Pittman For President.” Supporters launched a website to collect signatures expressing “strong support” for Pittman.
“Sean Pittman is a proud double alumnus of this university and he knows what makes us unique,” said FSU junior Hollyn Saliga.
Pittman, who served as student body president while at university, introduced himself to the search committee as an effective state and federal government lobbyist who would prioritize academics and athletes and a “balance” between the two if he got the job. He also cited a “profile” the committee had included in a job advertisement.
“You spoke about academic excellence on your profile because you realize that we have a faculty that expects this, teaching and research, that we are about to do amazing things and get close to the top 10,” said Pittman referring to the recent surge in the university’s public college rankings.
Another university candidate, Robert Blouin, Provost of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was also interviewed Friday.
“We have to make sure that our young graduates are prepared for tomorrow and we have to give them the tools to do so,” said Blouin during the interview.
Khamare Garner, a student studying music at FSU, said he wanted someone with academic experience to be the next president.
“So that we can take the next big step and expand the work of President Thrasher, we need a person who is an educator first, not a lobbyist and not a politician,” said Garner.
Six candidates were due to be interviewed on Friday, including Randy Hanna, dean and CEO of Florida state’s Panama City campus. Corcoran and two other candidates will be interviewed on Saturday, and the search committee is expected to group the finalists into a smaller group.
Next week, the remaining candidates will participate in individual “open candidate forums” with students, faculties and staff. The search committee will ultimately make recommendations to the university’s board of trustees, which is expected to make a selection in early June. The selected candidate must be approved by the system’s board of governors.
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