Despite claiming to be focused on providing students with the best possible education, many public universities have instead become a playing field for those with political aims to further their agendas.
Over the last few years, the search for leaders at many major universities in Florida has led to scandal and outrage as political parties increasingly have the upper hand in deciding who is granted the position, regardless of qualification to actually improve the university.
The Board of Governors (BOG) in charge of supervising the 12 public universities in Florida has proposed a new statewide rule that will promote ethical and unbiased search efforts for future leaders.
The Board will be voting on the new rule in June and if passed universities will soon have a chance at having people who are actually qualified be chosen to lead them.
The simple yet essential proposal essentially states the search committees must have a maximum of 15 members including a member of the BOG, a minimum of three trustees, faculty members and students.
Those on the committee can’t report directly to the president, so the current head can’t build a committee full of people who will choose whomever the president prefers.
The proposal also mandates search committees be entirely open during their process so students and anyone interested can see who is being considered and what the committee has been up to recently by simply clicking on links on the university’s website.
Florida has had major issues with biased search committees. In 2014, Florida State University (FSU) faced major student and faculty protests after the search for a new president quickly turned into a scandal.
“On May 21 … (the Presidential Search Advisory Committee) passed a motion to fast-track Florida state Senator John Thrasher as the sole candidate for consideration without so much as an application,” doctoral candidates Lakey and Ralph Wilson say.
“Thrasher has no real academic credentials, is anti-tenure, is a two-time ethics violator while serving in the Florida House of Representatives, is currently serving as Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election campaign chair and was named American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Legislator of the Year in 1998,” stated Lakey.
Students and faculty both backed a motion to stop considering Thrasher as a candidate; however, their opinion was overlooked due to a majority of “corporate/political interests.”
According to the Tampa Bay Times, this biased selection process has taken place at many other locations, including the University of Florida and Florida Atlantic University.
Forcing universities to be transparent during their hiring process is essential for a functioning and prospering environment. USF’s student government was recently accused of failing to live up to promises of transparency, which resulted in promises of better records, promises that have yet to be fulfilled.
A lack of trust leads to suspicion and outrage. How can students or faculty trust their school if they feel their interests are being overlooked in the name of politics or money?
Later this month, the BOG will hopefully vote in favor of a proposal ensuring universities across the state are only helmed by leaders who will actually benefit the school. If students can trust the university leadership, they can spend their time focused on studying rather than ensuring their school doesn’t fall prey to a political agenda.
Breanne Williams is a junior majoring in mass communications.