UFF-FSU Press Statement, May 21, 2014

The following press statement was published the morning of May 21, 2014, before the Presidential Search Advisory Committee met.

UFF-FSU Has “Lost Confidence” in Presidential Search Process
Calls on search committee to make fundamental changes moving forward

The United Faculty of Florida, Florida State University Chapter has followed the work of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee whenever and wherever possible. Our representatives have attended every public meeting and have provided input and feedback in all possible forums. Our organization and the faculty members we represent remain committed to this university and hope that this search process will bring us the leadership we need to join the ranks of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning here in the United States, if not the world. However, we have serious concerns over the process thus far and believe that fundamental changes need to be made moving forward.

As this process began, there were numerous accounts in the media indicating that this search was merely for appearances’ sake and that FSU’s new president had already been selected behind closed doors. We trusted the rebuttals of those involved with the search, we believed the assertions that the search would be open, fair, and include faculty input, and we operated accordingly, providing input at any opportunity we had. We now believe that there is ample evidence indicating that this process is not being conducted fairly, is not open and transparent, and is ignoring the needs of the faculty, students and taxpayers. Here are some examples.

The national advertisement for the position, posted in one of the most visible and highly regarded higher education publications, includes “loyalty” to Florida State University as a criterion. How would an academic leader with no prior relationship with FSU meet this criterion? Such an expectation would discourage many highly-qualified candidates from applying for the position. Furthermore, none of the published criteria in the advertisement mention “strong academic credentials” even though faculty members have consistently stated that this is the most important attribute for the leader of our university, and the Presidential Search Advisory Committee had agreed to add that wording to the position description. Also, the advertisement did not list a deadline for applications even though everyone involved acknowledged that the most qualified candidates tend to wait until the deadline to apply in a state with open government laws.

Further, the public comment period at the last search committee meeting was not publicized and consequently few faculty members were able to contribute. The chair of the committee has refused to include public comment at the Wednesday, May 21st meeting. The timing is also suspect; rather than waiting until August and September when faculty and students will be available to participate in the process, the search seems rushed so that it can be completed during the quiet summer months, and each step of the process has been undermined by last-minute announcements.

These are just a couple of examples that give credibility to those initial media reports that the outcome of this search has been predetermined. Therefore, UFF-FSU today declares that we have lost confidence in the current search and call on the Board of Trustees and the Presidential Search Advisory Committee to make several fundamental changes moving forward.

First, we believe that the current search firm must be replaced. It has exhibited a serious lack of regard for the opinions and input of our faculty and appears to be pursuing an agenda different than that of an open and honest search for the best candidates. Second, we believe that the current search committee must be expanded to include more faculty members. Finally, we believe that a clear timeline must be established and adhered to, one that includes benchmarks for public disclosure and participation.

We may not be the only stakeholders in the process, but we are among the most important, and our voices must be heard rather than muted. We want the best for Florida State University and we want to have confidence that this process is being conducted fairly, not simply as cover for a predetermined political arrangement. We believe the changes we are calling for can help achieve that goal.

UPDATE: “The FSU Presidential Search Committee allowed 20 minutes of public testimony in advance of the vote to make Senator John Thrasher the sole candidate under current consideration by the committee. While we do not support this move, we support the opportunity for public comment and hope that all further meetings include the same opportunity.”

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