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Lawmakers Restrict Openness of Presidential Searches

March 4th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

The University of Florida is beginning its search for a new President this month, and as Mike Vasilinda tells us, legislation sent to the Governor today could make it the first such search held behind closed doors since the late 1960’s.

The formal investiture of FSU President Richard McCullough was February 25th. He came from Harvard and may be the last university in President to have gone through the open process.

The vote: “86 yeas, 26 nays” announced the reading clerk.

Friday, lawmakers sent legislation to the Governor taking university searches out of the public eye until finalists have been selected. At that point, there will be a 21 day public vetting before a selection can be made. Lawmakers from both parties say the sunshine isn’t working. Rep. Stan McClain (R-Ocala) learned about the diffuculty of public searches as a county commissioner.

“It absolutely has a chilling effect on the applicants that might apply” McClain told the Hose.

Rep. Ramon Alexander (D-Tallahassee) is one of two members to have served on a search committee. “This is about expanding the applicant pool. If anybody is about diversity its me. Hello.”

But opponents argued it the openness isn’t killing the applicant pool. Rep. Joe Geller

(D-Broward) says only the weak would be intimidated by the sunshine.

“It does nothing but keep out the feint of heart” says Geller. “It does nothing but keep out the people who don’t have confidence they are going to make it to the final.”

For the last decade this legislation has gotten more yes than no votes every time the legislature has voted. But its never gotten the two thirds required, until today, until today, to take something out of the public eye.

Rep. Sam Garrison sponsored the House bill.

“Its encouraging to see bills come back through time and gain momentum as it goes along” garrison told us. “I think it speaks to good policy” he says.

The legislation takes effect as soon as it is signed by the Governor which is likely to happen in time to impact the search for a new leader at UF.

The legislation also applies to selecting a President at one of the 28 state colleges.

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