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Last Chance For University Presidential Applicant Public Records Exemption

March 13th, 2020 by Jake Stofan

Nearly all week protestors have greeted senators as they’ve entered the chamber.

They’re hoping to keep the application process for president of any of Florida’s 12 state universities in the sunshine.

“We just feel as though it’s the Sunshine Act and the people should be involved in the appointing of the president and there’s no reason for it to be done in secrecy,” said Shawn McDonnell President of the West Central Florida Labor Council.

Under the legislation, Presidential applicants would be shielded from the public record.

Top contenders’ names would be made public 21 days before a final decision is made.

“If we’re not allowed to be part of that process and know who these folks are, that leaves opportunity for closed door, backdoor deals and it’s not fair to the population that they serve,” said Wendy Carey with the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association.

Senate sponsor Manny Diaz argues many very qualified sitting presidents don’t apply in Florida because of the current law, fearing they could loose the job they have.

“And we’ve seen the opposite happen to us. We lost the president at FSU to Penn State because they don’t have the same rules and so people are free to apply and not have to worry about the repercussions,” said Diaz.

But protestors argue the current system is working.

“At the beginning of session the Governor and everyone was celebrating that Florida is now number one ranked in US News and World Report for higher education. We accomplished that with leaders who were completely hired in the sunshine,” said Rich Templin with the Florida AFL-CIO.

The legislation will have to pass on a two thirds vote, which means at least four democrats will need to vote yes.

Lawmakers must send the legislation to the Governor before session ends Friday evening, or the bill will be dead for the year.

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